Vacherin, the deep, deliciously smelly cheese, is the usual one for baking whole in its box. The cheese cooks to a pouring consistency and is served with cornichons and bread. But vacherin mont d'or is both expensive and at its best only for a limited time around Christmas, so the more user-friendly camembert has become a popular cheese to bake whole. Unremittingly rich, it is one for a cold autumn day.
THE RECIPE Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Take the cheese from its box, unwrap it and put it back in the box. Rub the surface with a little white wine then put the lid on and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes till the cheese is soft and wobbly inside its crust.
THE TRICKBring the cheese to room temperature before you put it in the oven, otherwise it will take forever to cook. Place the box on a tray or ovenproof dish just in case it leaks. Make sure that the box is a wooden one and that it is stapled together and not glued. The glued ones tend to come undone in the oven.
THE TWISTDon't feel you have to add the wine, you can simply bake it as it is if you prefer. The usual accompaniments are sourdough bread, some thinly sliced ham and a few tiny cornichons, but steamed waxy-fleshed potatoes are also worth trying. Spear a potato on your fork and dip into the melted cheese. My own favourite method is to serve the cheese with spears of steamed purple sprouting broccoli. You can also rub the cheese with brandy and a cut garlic clove if you wish, but I feel this detracts from the simplicity of the melted cheese.
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