I have yet to meet a cheese I don't like. My latest discovery? Bread cheese. It's not a new cheese by any means, but unless you're from the land of cheese (aka Wisconsin), you might not have heard about it. Contrary to the name, there's no actual bread present in this type of cheese. My fascination with this cheese happened in a recent tasting where I was told to dunk a slice of bread cheese into a cup of steaming hot coffee. That's right, just like you would a cookie, but with cheese. As much as I love these two things, I never dreamed of pairing them, but I was pleasantly surprised. And that's not the only way to enjoy bread cheese. Here's what I learned from a Wisconsin Cheese pro on the tasty, fun-to-eat cheese.
Courtesy of Wisconsin Cheese
What Is Bread Cheese?
Bread cheese pays tribute to a Finnish cheese known as Juustoleipä (pronounced: hoo-stah-lee-pa) that is traditionally made with reindeer milk (yes, you read that right) and dipped in coffee. Today, cheesemakers in Wisconsin have adapted this Scandinavian dairy product and now make it with cow's milk. So how did it get the name bread cheese? It's all in the way it's made. According to Wisconsin master cheesemaker Sid Cook, making bread cheese is "much harder as there are many more steps to the process." Simply put, fresh cheese curds are pressed into bread-size blocks and baked in special ovens until the sugars on the outside are caramelized. The result is a block of cheese that resembles a piece of toasted bread.
What Does Bread Cheese Taste Like?
If you've ever had fresh cheese curds or halloumi, bread cheese is similar in that it's got the soft, "squeaky" texture. The taste is mild but the oven-toasted top has an almost buttery flavor. Bread cheese is usually served warm (more on this later) and has a high melting point, which turns the texture more silky-smooth while still holding its shape.
Where to Buy Bread Cheese
While bread cheese is easier to find in stores in the midwest, it's definitely branching out to the coasts. It's been spotted in popular stores such as Trader Joe's and Aldi, but you can also seek bread cheese at your local cheese shop. Still can't find it? Look for it online or directly order from Wisconsin cheesemakers such as Brunkow or Carr Valley.
How to Store Bread Cheese
If you're lucky enough to score on a few blocks of bread cheese, the good news is that it has a long shelf life. Cook says bread cheese lasts up to 6 months refrigerated and 1 year in the freezer. You can store the bread cheese in cheese paper, beeswax, or a plastic storage bag.
How to Eat Bread Cheese
If you want to start with the traditional route, go with Cook's favorite method of cutting a stick of bread cheese and warming it up by using it like a stir stick and stirring in a fresh cup of hot coffee. Here are some pro tips on different methods of how to cook bread cheese:
Bake or broil: Place bread cheese on a parchment-lined baking sheet ($8, Walmart) and bake in 375°F oven until bubbly. To broil, place in the lower part of the oven until the surface is bubbly (watch it closely so it doesn't burn). Flip to the other side after a few minutes to finish heating through.
Grill: To grill bread cheese, place directly onto the grates of a medium-hot charcoal grill (do not close the lid) or use a lightly greased grill pan. Cook a few minutes on each side, until grill marks appear and cheese is warmed through and soft on the inside.
Microwave: Just pop the bread cheese in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds to get it warmed up.
Now for the fun part. Once you have the melty bread cheese ready, it's time to enjoy. Try it as a breadless (and Keto-friendly) grilled cheese. It'll pair perfectly with a bowl of tomato soup. You can also serve bread cheese as an appetizer á la baked brie by topping with honey, jam (the folks at Wisconsin Cheese recommend a homemade strawberry-rhubarb), fruit, and/or nuts. Enjoy with crackers or bread. And since bread cheese has a higher melting point, you can also use it as a vegetarian kabob option at your next cookout.