Last month I introduced you to Eric and Karen from Caprino Royale down in Waco, one of the most promising young farmstead operations in the state. Last weekend, we got to visit their farm as part of our annual cheese tour (see Steven’s article for a complete roundup of the day). One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to see where they make Caprino’s fantastic new addition to their lineup: the Texas Bloombonnet. A beautiful bloomy rind goat button, Bloombonnet is easily enjoyable all on its own, but the cheese is all the more impressive when you know some background about the difficult and inspired path that led to its creation.
Let’s start with a little background on terms: “bloomy rind” is a much sexier way of saying “mold ripened”. Softer cheeses are either inoculated, sprayed or sometimes both with particular strains of fungus that help break down the paste and form that gooey texture we all love. The mold also creates a thin, soft, white rind, which you can think of as the “flower” of the fungus, while the roots work their way to the center. That’s why you sometimes find your Brie has a harder center, called a pearl—an area of the paste at the core where the mold has not yet penetrated. This isn’t a bad thing (some cheeses are meant to be eaten this way), it just means the cheese is a little young.
The difficulty with making bloomy rind cheeses is that you have to get your ratios down just right. Already a tough cheese to make on a technical level, bloomy rinds also run into more seasonal problems. Karen explains, seasons affect “temperature and the small variables in aging cheese. That means daily care until the cheese leaves our caves. Right now the milk is actually changing because our goats are kidding. During the winter, the goats are eating bark and branches, things they wouldn’t normally eat, in order to prepare them for birth. As a result, during the winter their milk has a much higher butterfat level and less yield. After birthing the levels drop, and you have to adjust your recipes slightly to accommodate for the changes in milk.”
Another hurdle Eric and Karen surmounted when making the perfect bloomy rind was the extra time invested needed to get a new cheese just right. “It took about 3 months at least, as with any new cheese. You have to continually make minor adjustments so you know exactly what makes the cheese taste different. I kept notebooks from every batch to track what I was doing and how it changed the flavor.”
Although you can find similar soft cheeses from both cow and sheep’s milk, Bloombonnet is unique in the purest sense of the word– it’s a cheese “invented” by Caprino Royale themselves. “We are mainly self taught,” Karen says. “There has never been a lot of discussion between cheese makers, and most will make you sign “no compete” clauses if you train under them. No one in Texas is making a cheese quite like Bloombonnet. That’s one of the reasons we did it. The fun part is getting the cheese to do what you want and part of that is doing something different, taking ideas from many sources and tweaking them rather than copying existing recipes. We don’t have the cultural heritage where recipes are passed down from forefathers, like cheese makers in Europe do. So, like cooking, we have to read books and websites, gleaning information from here and there before putting the pieces together for a finished product.”
I get asked quite often if we make cheese at our shop, and my response is always no, I get the easy part, I get to taste the cheese and tell people how awesome it is. So, with that being said, on to the awesome part.
Each Bloombonnet round weighs about 4 ounces (roughly a quarter pound.) The outside is covered in that bloomy white mold, as creamy and pure-white as icing. A thin rind before you get to the gooey layer covering the dense “pearl” at the center. The texture is creamy but with a light quality, almost fluffy. A mouth filling creaminess gives way to a light acidic flavor when the goat starts to take over. Not overpowering, but just enough to let you know what kind of milk you’re dealing with. That’s followed by a light sour cream, very mild earthiness, and a bit of salinity. The rind almost has no real flavor, much like the (Truffle Stack) I reviewed recently, it becomes more of a texture.
I really enjoyed this paired with Tank 7, a saison from Boulevard Brewing Co. out of Kansas City. The spicy, bread/yeasty qualities really stood up to the light acid and the large bubbles helped scrub some of the creaminess off my palate to dance around a little. You could also use a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, something with crisp citrus and refreshing acid.
As Eric says, “Most cheeses are just ho-hum, like you bite in and you’re waiting for something to happen. But we try to have a development of flavors, so throughout the tasting the flavors grow and change.” Sound familiar, like how you might describe a certain fermented grape we enjoy? Eric says it best: “like wine, our cheese has legs”.
Lance Lynn is one of the cheesemongers at Scardello in Dallas. Experience the Texas Bloombonnet at the cheese shop or find it in an amazing form at Komali sold as Queso de Cabra that is served with a sweet piloncillo sauce and grilled bread.