A good brie is easier to select than some might think. It is common to be intimidated by exotic foods, but with a little knowledge, it can be a rewarding experience. Even if you have never seen a wedge of this cheese, you can choose a delicious piece for your needs. Factors to look for are the cheese's rind, its color, and its preparation.
Brie is a soft cheese from France with a moldy, edible rind. If you do not wish to eat the rind, it is easily removed with a sharp knife. Regular, double, and triple brie are good on crackers and bread, but pair equally well with fruit and nuts. More savory types of this cheese, such as hand washed and herbed, are better on crackers and bread or served with other savoy dishes.
When selecting brie, the most important thing is to get a wheel or wedge that is ripe. Ripe wedges will be an even, pale yellow color. If there are flecks of white near the middle, the cheese is not ripe. Wheels are a little harder to tell if they are ripe. The cheese should be bulging at the rind and should be somewhat springy. If it is overripe, it will have a liquid feel and an ammonia smell.
Double brie has more cream added to it. It is slightly creamier in texture than the regular kind, with a fuller flavor. The triple kind has even more added cream. It is richer, creamier, and more expensive than the double variety. All three types should be brought to room temperature before serving.
Hand washed brie is repeatedly washed in salt water. This changes the flavor and aroma, and the rind develops orange streaks. The aroma of the rind can be rather strong, but the cheese is mild with a distinctive flavor.
Brie noir is popular in France and seldom found elsewhere. This cheese is aged for about least a year, and becomes dark and crumbly with a black rind. It has a bitter taste, but is often dipped in café au lait to decrease the bitterness.
There are also many herbed varieties available. This type of cheese is good for spreading on crackers or bread. It also goes well with meats and savory meals. Common herbs added are parsley, basil, thyme, and garlic.
True brie will have a mark on the package from the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). These are most commonly found in France and other parts of Europe, but may be found in specialty stores elsewhere. The taste is very different from other types of this cheese.