7 Tips on Buying French Cheese

French cheese have grown quite popular these days. Some use it as an ingredient of a favorite dish, others put it in their favorite bread, while others still eat it as it is along with a glass of red wine. However, there are some people who just find it hard to choose that perfect round of Camembert or Brie; or know where to get it. Well, I am no expert but here are seven tips that might help you get that favorite French cheese you want to buy on your next trip to the market.

1. Know what’s in season

As I might have mentioned before, among the most important aspects of French cuisine is the ready availability of ingredients. It is the same with cheeses. Experts say that some cheeses are best during particular seasons. For instance, Camembert is best during spring while Beaufort is tastiest in autumn. Remember, dishes in French cuisine are often seasonal; the same thing goes for French cheeses.

2. Buy from specialist shops

As with most things, it is best to get them from the experts. More often than not, specialist cheese shops or fromageries get their cheeses only from the best cheese makers. They very rarely get their products from factories that mass produce cheese. In fact, most specialist cheese shops actually only buy from small farms that make one particular kind of gourmet cheese. This means that specialist cheese shops would most likely have the best, or near that level of quality, brands of each type of French cheese. However, there is a downside to this. Most products from specialist shops are more expensive than those sold in supermarkets. So you have to decide which one’s more important to you, quality or affordability.

8 Most Popular Types of French Bread

As I’ve mentioned before, wine is an important part of French cuisine. Now, bread is just as important, maybe even more so. Traditionally in France, bread is consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is so essential for meals that people would hazard heavy rain, strong winds, or even flood just to visit the local boulangerie for some baguettes. But baguettes are not the only kind of bread you can find in France. Now here are eight types of French bread that have become popular around the world today.

1. Baguette

Now, who doesn’t know this world famous bread? Despite its popularity, the baguette is considered one of the simple breads because traditionally it is made of only flour, salt, yeast, and water. It is also often baked and consumed in the same day because it does not have preservatives and would go stale the next day. The baguette is closely linked to French cuisine. It is even synonymous with the term “French bread” in some countries. And it can be used to accompany almost any French dish or any kind of French cheese. Yes, it may be a simple bread but it is one of the most versatile ones out there.

2. Pain de Campagne

Pain de campagne literally means “country bread” in French. Typically, it is a large round or rectangular bread made with natural leavening, salt, water, and a mixture of white, rye, and/or whole wheat flour. It tastes a tad like the common sourdough, but less sour. This bread could be as heavy as four to twelve pounds and has a thick crust, which makes it last longer than the baguette.

3. Ficelle

Ficelle means “string” in French. It is a typical French bread and actually has the same ingredients as the baguette. The only difference between the two breads is that the baguette usually measures up to two inches in diameter while the ficelle is thinner, usually one inch in diameter. Most of the time the two have the same length but some boulangeries bake ficelles much shorter than baguettes. It is advisable to consume ficelle fresh from the oven as its crust dries up faster than the baguette because it’s much smaller in diameter.

4. Bâtard

Bâtard is made with the same dough as the baguette. Just like ficelle, its name has more to do with its shape rather than its ingredients or the process with which it is baked. You see, the word bâtard in French means “bastard”. In fact, it is called the “bastard baguette” by some. It is called that because it is considered an inferior version of a baguette. Compared to the baguette, bâtard is bigger in diameter but shorter in length. Now, the bâtard may be inferior for some strict traditionalists but some people actually prefer this to the baguette since it has a bigger diameter, which makes it perfect for those lovely turkey sandwiches.

5. Pain de mie

This type of French bread is not usually found fresh in boulangeries. It is because pain de mie is a loaf of sliced white bread, similar to the white cream breads in the U.S. Its name literally means “the interior of bread”, which suggests the absence of a hard shell or crust. It is made with flour, milk, yeast, salt, butter, and sugar. It is sweeter than most French breads and is often bought already packed. It is the most popular bread for sandwiches and can be great for making toasts.

6. Fougasse

Fougasse is a flat rectangular bread that is quite similar to the Italian bread focaccia. It is believed to have been developed centuries ago to test the temperature of stone ovens. In France, it is most often associated with the Provence region where it is believed to be a speciality. The main ingredients of fougasse are flour, milk, yeast, water, olive oil, and various herbs. Sometimes bakers include other things inside the dough such as cheese, meat, or fruits. This is done by folding the dough over the fillings. Then, the dough is shaped into a tree, a leaf, or a wheat stalk before it is put in the oven. Kind of cute, isn’t it?

7. Croissant

Now, who hasn’t heard this delicious sweet bread? Anyone who has visited a cafe knows this one. Why? Well, because croissants are the perfect bread to munch over a yummy cup of cappuccino or mocha latte, that’s why. Actually, a croissant is considered a pastry-bread hybrid. Its dough is made with yeast, milk, flour, salt, sugar, butter, water, and egg. And of course, a croissant would not be complete without its filling. Like in fougasse, fillings can be varied. The most common are chocolate, almonds, cheese, ham, and raisins. In France, though, it is often baked with almond fillings or none at all.

8. Brioche

Brioche is another sweet French bread that is fast becoming popular today. Like croissant, its dough is made with flour, milk, yeast, salt, butter, eggs, and some sugar. It is often baked in these fluted round flared tin molds and is haped by making two dough balls, with one dough smaller than the other. The smaller dough ball is placed on top of the bigger dough ball before it is glazed with egg and sprinkled with a bit of sugar. Sometimes it is baked with fruit filling or topped with pate or other meats. Absolutely delicious!

Is your favorite bread in the list? If it isn’t, what is your favorite French bread? How do you eat them? Favorite or not, French breads are some of the most delicious baked goods in the world and anyone who loves to eat should really try them.

7 Most Famous Kinds of French Cheese

One of the things I love about French dinners is that cheeses actually have their own place in them. I mean, where else would you be served cheese between the main course and dessert? And you would be served not just one yummy French cheese, but four! I tell you, French dinners are delectablyly charminng. Obviously, I love cheese. Now, here are seven most famous kinds of French cheese.

1. Camembert

Camembert
Product link: amazon.com
Price: $8.80
Camembert is made from usually pasteurized cow’s milk. In France, however, they prefer to use raw unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is soft, gooey, and creamy inside with a white dry rind outside. It is said to have been invented in Normandy, in a town called Camembert. But some experts say this could just be a popular local myth. Another interesting tidbit about this cheese is that the famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali mentioned it was the inspiration behind his most famous painting of a runny clock entitled “The Persistence of Memory”. Experts say Camembert goes well with red wine.

2. Brie de Meaux

Brie de Meaux
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Price: $19.99
Brie is made from whole or skimmed cow’s milk that could be pasteurized or unpasteurized. It looks a bit like Camembert and it also uses the same species of mold but it is more solid on the inside. If your Brie looks as gooey as a Camembert, it is most probably overripe, which you don’t really want. It was invented in Brie, the province for which it was named after. Although this type of French cheese is usually white, there is a type of Brie that has a brownish and drier rind called Brie Noir. It is drier and has a daker color because it is aged longer than the typical Brie. Like Camembert, Brie is served with red wine.

3. Roquefort

Roquefort
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Price: $25.49
Roquefort is a popular blue cheese made from ewe’s milk. It is made, like most French cheeses, in rounds and is white in color with spots of blue green, which is actually mold, all over it. The production of this cheese is quite curious because it is aged inside caves that can only be found in Mont Combalou in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Originally, the mold for this cheese was taken directly from the cave soil but now it is cultured inside labs. Moreover, technically this cheese can be made outside of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon but they cannot take the name Roquefort because the label is protected by French law. Quite snobbish, right? And in my opinion, so French. I read somewhere that Zinfandel goes well with Roquefort.

4. Boursin

Boursin
Product link: amazon.com
Price: $7.25
Boursin is a cream cheese that is made from cow’s milk mixed with salt, spices, and herbs. It was invented by, and named after, a French cheesemaker named Francois Boursin from Normandy in 1957. Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs, the original recipe only has milk, cream, salt, pepper, garlic, chives, and parsley. This variety continues to be the most popular one today. Most people eat this creamily delicious cheese with bread, usually a baguette. It goes well with a bottle of fruity red wine.

5. Reblochon

Reblochon
Product link: amazon.com
Price: $84.00
Reblochon is a soft cheese from raw or unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is aged in caves or cellars in the mountains of Haute Savoie. There is a charming anecdote regarding this cheese’s name and origin. The story goes that during the Middle Ages, farmers paid their taxes with milk from their cattle. But in order to pay less, the farmers do not fully milk their animals. (I guess nobody really likes taxes, even then. I sure don’t.) And after the tax collectors go, the farmers milk their cattle again. The much richer milk they get with the second milking is the one they use to make Reblochon. In fact, the word Reblochon comes from the French word “reblocher” which means “to milk the cow’s again”. Reblochon is said to have a nutty taste and a strong herby smell. Similar to Boursin, a bottle of fruity red wine would complement this yummy cheese.

6. Munster

Munster
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Price: $13.99
Munster is a soft white cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk from cattle found in the mountain range in northeastern France called Vosges. It is said to have been first made by monks who lived in Munster Valley, who came from Ireland. Munster is rubbed by hand with a cloth soaked in a rock salt and water solution. Then it is left outside for a week. After a week, the cheese is brought inside the caves where they are left to age. However, the cheese is washed and brushed every two days. Munster cheese has quite a strong flavor and smell, and it is usually paired with red wine.

7. Pont l’Evèque

Pont l'Evèque
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Price: $16.19
Pont l’Evèque is a pale yellow cheese with a white orange rind. It is considered to be among the world’s oldest cheeses. It is known to have been first produced during the Middles ages, around the thirteenth century. It was first known by the name of d’Angelot. Centuries later, it was mainly manufactured in a community called Pont l’Evèque in Normandy. And that was how it later adapted the name. It is often made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is a soft creamy and buttery cheese with a rather strong aroma or odor. Some say it goes well with Pinot Noir, while others say it is perfect with Champagne. My advice? Try both and decide for yourself which one complements Pont l’Evèque best.

Is your favorite French cheese in this list? If it’s not, what is your favorite French cheese? What wine do you usually serve with it? Do you know any interesting stories behind your favorite French cheese?