| Fromage Blanc with pears and honey.
Photo: Marylise Doctrinal, Flickr
If you like eating thick, creamy French cheese such as Chaource, you're likely to enjoy fromage blanc. At Fromagerie Trotté, customers come in weekly for what at first blush resembles chunks of cream, large pieces of mascarpone or crème fraîche. They are not ordering cream, of course, but are lining up for fromage blanc -- also called fromage frais, which literally translates to "fresh cheese."
Fromage blanc is a young cheese that is made from cow's milk. It's essentially an un-aged fresh cow's milk cheese – that is, it represents the beginning stages of cheesemaking before the addition of rennet and salt. Therefore, its texture is soft and milky, similar to that of cottage cheese and yogurt. Like yogurt, it has a relatively low fat content (assuming that there is no added cream.)
In France, this popular cheese is often sold in two forms: fromage blanc campagnard and fromage blanc lissé (called Quark in the United States). The former is more rustic and looks like big chunks of cheese swimming in a milky liquid, not unlike cottage cheese. The latter is whipped and has an even texture throughout, with an identical consistency to crème fraîche. (In French, the names will direct fromage lovers to their preferred style: Lissé means "smoothed" and campagnard means "rustic.")
Fromager and affineur Pascal Trotté prefers the more classic fromage blanc campagnard because of its various textures. "The whipped kind is popular with children who favor the uniform texture," Trotté says. "But when it comes down to flavor, both taste the same -- mildly tart and rich."
When eating fromage blanc, Trotté likes to add sugar or honey (called fromage blanc au miel). Many of his customers pair it with fresh berries to create a tasty and relatively healthful breakfast or dessert. While fromage blanc is sold in nearly every French cheese shop, it can now be found throughout the U.S. at cheese shops like Cowgirl Creamery. So, instead of pairing strawberries with crème fraîche, next time, try fromage blanc (pronounced froh-mahj blonk -- hey, it sure sounds better than "Quark").