~ Bread Cheese: A Very Old Baltic Breakfast Treat ~
If you've never heard of bread cheese, there's a chance you will soon. I've recently started noticing vacume-packed packages of it in two of our local grocery stores (Wegman's and Weis). This made me smile, because, the only two or three times I had encounters with bread cheese was back in the early 1980's, and, it was introduced to me as "squeeky cheese". The wife of a male co-worker of my husband (they happened to be from Norway and Sweden respectively and were living in Happy Valley for a short period of time) served it grilled and warm, topped with cloudberry jam as a bite-sized appetizer at their cocktail parties. I affectionately refer to this as "the cloudberry jam period of my life", because for a couple of years, I ordered cloudberry jam by the case, and, served it with other soft cheeses and crackers at my own parties.
By the way, there is no bread in bread cheese. It gets its name for two reasons: 1) It looks like toasted bread when it is heated (and when heated, it does not melt, it just softens), and; 2) It's traditionally eaten in place of bread (plain and unheated, or, warm and topped with something sweet), as a very, hearty, satisfying, rich breakfast or dessert treat in Scandinavian countries.
PS: It also pairs well with fresh fruit and wine at cocktail time.
A bit about bread cheese: "Juustoleipa" (hoo-stah-lee-pah) or "cheese bread", has been produced in Finland and Sweden for over 200 years. Originally made from reindeer milk, for the most part, it is now made from cow or goat beestings (milk from a cow or goat that has recently be calved). It is unique in that it is baked during the cheesemaking process, which gives it a light-brown, tasty crust.
Commercial versions (like the Wisconsin-produced version I have here) are typically made from regular, pasteurized milk. Note: I live next door to a dairy farm so I couldn't resist taking this picture.
Beneath the crust, the cheese is smooth, sweet, rich, buttery and mild with a hint of salt. Does it sqeek? Well, sort of, when you bite into it, yes it does (mostly when it is slightly warm). For best results, follow package directions:
"Makes a great breakfast, a delicious snack or wonderful dessert. Be creative! Dip it in your coffee. Cube and microwave it for 30 seconds or saute in a skillet and top with jam, honey & walnuts or syrup." Ok, I'll bite:
~ #1. Served as a side-dish dipped in coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, and, I also don't particularly like cheese for breakfast, so, cutting the bread cheese into strips and dipping it directly into coffee did very little for me -- and that's being polite.
That being said, the Swedish tradition of "kaffeost" (coffee cheese), or: placing a few small pieces of this cheese in the bottom of a cup, pouring hot coffee over the top and letting them sit until warmed through is much more pleasing.
When I do drink coffee, I like "clouds in my coffee", so I added cream to my cup. After a few minutes, the bread cheese softens, and, if you are lover of coffee (and coffee-flavored ice cream), you're probably going to like this a lot.
~ #2. Heated in the microwave or sauted until heated through, then served topped with jam, honey & walnuts or syrup. I consider the microwave a necessary evil in my kitchen, so, whenever I can cook using a better method, I do. An 8" nonstick skillet has been placed on my stovetop, the cheese has been cut into 1 1/2" squares, and, is at close to room temperature. The concept here is to saute it like you would French toast:
Saute, over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, heated through and oozing slightly, about 1-1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside for about 1 more minute, to allow residual heat to warm it through to the center.
Top as directed above (cloudberry jam is my topping of choice). This being said, there are savory applications for bread cheese too (salads and sandwiches), which I have not had the opportunity to experiment with (yet). When I do, you'll be the first to know.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; nonstick skillet or microwave
Cooks's Note: A bit about cloudberries: This wild plant grows naturally in cool/cold mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere (like Canada and Alaska) and in the Nordic countries of the Baltic states. The berries, soft, juicy and rich in vitamin C are used to make jam, juice, cakes, tarts, tea and liqueur. In Finland, they use it as a topping for the above-named squeeky cheese. In Sweden, cloudberry jam is used as a topping for ice cream, pancakes and waffles. In Norway, they sometimes mix the jam with whipped cream to make a dessert called "multekrem", or, "cloudberry cream". Alaskans mix the berries with reindeer or caribou fat, fish oil and sugar to make "akutaq" or "Eskimo ice cream" (now doesn't that just sound appetizingly wonderful)!?!?!?
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)