Camembert, Brie and White Beer Fondue
Fondue is a melted cheese dish from Switzerland, served in a communal pot over a portable stove such as a candle or spirit lamp. As a shareable, warming, and indulgent dish, it’s a favorite at ski chalets and date nights alike. Although good year-round, the richness of the melted cheese fits particularly well with colder autumn and winter evenings, served with a selection of (often stale) chunks of bread and boiled potato.
In his book Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor, culinary chemist Hervé This points out that the success of the dish lies in proper cheese selection. A combination of two cheeses at a 50:50 ratio is most effective; in Switzerland, the established pair is gruyère and freiburger vacherin (a creamy, local cheese), but other popular alpine cheeses include Emmental, raclette and Comté.
The key to a successful fondue is choosing a well-ripened cheese. Hervé This explains this is due to the presence of enzymes called peptidases, which break down the proteins in the cheese and enable it to melt evenly in the warm liquid base.
This recipe is a slight twist on the classic, using two soft cheeses: Camembert and brie. In place of white wine, a traditional ingredient in fondue, blonde beer is used to loosen the cheese. This adds a malty, sweet flavor, the perfect complement to the richness of the cheese. Barcelona-based Ooni ambassador Alberto Zanrosso uses his Ooni oven to cater events across the city. Knowing the foolproof popularity of cheese fondue, he adapted the recipe to flame cook in a cast iron pan. Since this recipe doesn’t require a lamp or candle to continually heat the cheese, it’s best served right away. Hunks of bread, focaccia, salted crisps or potato chips, or roasted or boiled potatoes should be served alongside.
Serves 3 to 6 as a side or starter
1 ounce (30 grams) high-quality salted butter
1 sprig rosemary or thyme
1 garlic clove, crushed
9 ounces (250 grams) ripe camembert, cubed
9 ounces (250 grams) ripe brie, cubed
6 ounces (180 grams) blonde or white beer
Fire up your oven, aiming for 356°F (180°C) on the stone baking board.
Place your cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 356°F (180°C). Remove the pan and add the butter. When it turns brown, add the herbs, swishing the sprig around the pan. Add the garlic and cook outside the oven for a few minutes.
Add the cheeses and cook in the oven for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet and add the wine or beer, then return to the oven for another 2 minutes. The mix will feel loose, but don’t be tempted to overcook! (If you do, you’ll end up with a solid mass of cheese, rather than a lovely, creamy dip.) It will firm up on its own outside of the oven.
Remove the skillet and, if you wish, transfer to smaller dipping bowls to share. Serve immediately with chunks of bread or focaccia. Fondue is a great way to make use of stale bread, but fresh will taste equally delicious.