Mimolette Soft Chewy Caramels

Many people I know have fixated on the visually and texturally compelling Mimolette cheese. Its exterior is crater-like, its interior is a bright annato seed-dyed orange. When this cheese sits on a cheese shop’s counter, people often exclaim upon its discovery, “It looks like a cantaloupe!”

Mimolette cheese on board

NEED IMAGE: cheese-collages-23.jpg

In the not-so-distant past of 2013, this cheese was placed under embargo for its naturally occurring mites.  These live mites create the distinctive craters on the exterior of the cheese, but don’t enter inside.  They are a quite common occurrence in any natural rind cheese cave and they are a healthy part of the soil.  In fact, the mites help aerate the cheese, which in turn helps with the development of the cheese’s texture.  They are brushed off before shipment from France. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once expressed the mysterious quality of cheese mites in a poem.

The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.

Despite the challenges in securing international sourcing for this cheese, it is still available at dear American cheese counters.  You can find it proudly displayed on the Murray’s Cheese Bar menu as “caramel candy,” and for the right reasons.  Mimolette is smooth, waxy, with fine crystals of flavor. Notes of rich caramel and salt abound!

So the next question was, if bacon and caramel pair seamlessly, why can’t cheese and caramel?

Caramel studded with Mimolette cheese

I adapted the soft chewy caramel recipe from The Kitchn, and discovered two different ways to incorporate Mimolette in the caramel.  The first is to let shaved slices of the cheese cook in the boiling sugar, corn syrup, water, cream, and butter until it reaches 250 degrees F.  This creates a deeper, smokier flavored caramel and is more likely to scorch the bottom of your pan.  The second way is to whisk in the shaved slices after all the other ingredients have cooked together.  The Mimolette will not melt completely, you’ll have a lighter caramel that is studded with the cheese.  When tasting them side by side, I cannot decide which I like better.  I think the best conclusion is to make two batches.  That’s usually the simplest solution, and then you’ll have more to share with friends.

Sliced caramel squares

Recipe

adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 ounces thinly shaved Mimolette slices

Equipment

  • 8×8 baking dish (or similar size)
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • 4-quart saucepan
  • Instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wax paper
  1. Prepare the caramel mold. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment so that excess paper hangs over the edges. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Melt the butter in the cream. Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat, but keep the pan close by. FOR A DEEPER, DARKER FLAVORED CARAMEL: You may sprinkle the Mimolette slices in the butter-cream mixture at this point. Be prepared to scorch the bottom of the pan more dramatically during the final stage of cooking the caramel mixture.  I boiled water and baking soda together and the burned bits popped right off.
  3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. In the larger 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
    Note: The large saucepan is necessary because the sugar will bubble up and triple in size when you add the cream. Do not substitute a smaller pan.
  4. Cook the sugar syrup. Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250ºF, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320ºF, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250ºF and before it reaches 325ºF.
    Note: If your instant-read thermometer isn’t quite submerged into the sugar, you may need to tilt the pan to get an accurate reading. Simply tilt the pan by the handle until the thermometer is submerged a few inches in the sugar syrup. If the syrup hasn’t reached 250º, wipe down the sides with a pastry brush again. If it has, there’s no need.
  5. Whisk in the cream and butter. Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
  6. Heat the caramel to 245ºF – 250ºF. Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245ºF to 250ºF.
  7. Whisk in the shaved Mimolette slices. Quickly whisk the cheese into the caramel.
  8. Pour the caramels into the mold. Immediately pour the caramels into the mold. Do not scrape the pan (there are sometimes hard burnt bits on the bottom). Knock the mold against the counter a few times to help air bubbles work their way out.
  9. Let the caramels set. Put the caramels somewhere out of the way to set, for at least two hours or (ideally) overnight. Once the caramels have cooled to room temperature, you can cover the pan.
  10. Cut the caramels. When the caramels have set, lift them out of the pan by the parchment paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a very sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.
  11. Wrap the caramels in wax paper. Cut squares of wax paper a little longer than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in wax paper and twist the ends closed. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.

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