This spring, I’ve had a love affair with brainy goat cheeses. They appear this time of year – wrinkly, rumpled, as if they’ve just rolled out of bed – which may explain why I adore them for breakfast. Put on a pot of tea, grab the honey, pop in some toast, and prepare to be awakened with a rise-and-shiny little cheese.
Clochette is my current darling. Why set an alarm when you can wake to a bell-shaped French goat cheese? I swear, I fall asleep tipsy from joy at the very thought.
If wrinkly rinds give you pause (or nightmares), let me explain how to approach them without fear: so-called “brainy” goat cheeses are prepared a lot like bread. A special yeast, called geotricum, is stirred into the milk, and just as yeast makes dough rise, geo helps goat cheese form a doughy crust. The process takes several days. Then, as moisture evaporates, the rind shrinks.
The result looks like a pastry that has risen, then fallen.
Clochette also has an unmistakable taste. It always makes me think of lemon curd and sourdough bread. The front end tastes of sea salt, and the finish is pleasantly bright.
When you cut into a brainy cheese, it looks like baked Alaska. Three layers in one cheese – that’s pretty amazing. If you’re serving breakfast to geeks, implore them to try each layer separately, comparing their tastes and textures. The differences are subtle but interesting nonetheless.
Below are a few tips for enjoying Clochette, along with a couple other spring specialties you might pair with it on a cheese board.
Cheese tastes best at room temperature. Set Clochette out on your counter an hour or two before you plan to serve it. It’s natural for little bits of blue mold to appear on the surface; simply scrape those off with a butter knife.
A wheat beer or a Loire Valley white (or rosé) are common pairings for fresh aged goat cheese. For breakfast, try green tea. At a recent tea-tasting, Alexis Siemons of Teaspoons and Petals paired fresh goat cheese with cups of matcha and Sencha. Both are grassy. You could also play off the bright notes with a cup of citron oolong.
Clochette is especially tasty with lemon marmalade on toast. Or, try it with thin slices of green apples and a light, clear honey – a crack of black pepper adds spark.
For a cheese board of staggering beauty, pick out a handful of other small delicate cheeses that are currently in season: La Rossa comes wrapped in brandy-soaked cherry leaves, and Cabri au Piment d’Espeletteis rolled in Basque red pepper. Because these are vibrant cheeses with their own distinct tastes, you don’t need to add much alongside, other than baguette rounds.
For more goat cheese reverie, please visit Madame Fromage.