Yesterday, Mumsy returned from buying the bread looking very pleased with herself. She explained that she had been chatting to various people whilst waiting for the bread to come out of the oven and had arranged for us to go around a local ‘Fromagerie’ (Cheesemaker ) that evening at 6pm. Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind; (1) that Mumsy had arranged something at [heaven forbid] ‘Apéro time’; and (2) why did she think I wanted a tour of a fromagerie/dairy farm?
In fairness to Mumsy, earlier in the week I had asked if we could pop up to the local Fromagerie (about 5km away) to buy some cheese. I was interested in ‘Le Quercy Blanc’ (as the Fromagerie is known locally) because I had tried several of their cheeses at various fêtes during the summer and thought they would work well in a couple of recipes… Also, I fully endorse supporting local producers – not only does it keep them in business but, more often than not, their produce is infinitely better than the equivalent that can be found in the local supermarket.
Anyhow, yesterday evening Mumsy and I donned our coats and boots and set off in the pouring rain. The first thing to say is actually I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting it was. Having grown up living in farmhouse that was attached to a Diary Farm I knew about the milking processes, but I have not seen cheese production on a small scale. The farm is run by 3 families and between them they have roughly 200 milking cows, (the vast majority of which are Holsteins). For their cheese production, they syphon off a very small quantity of the milk the output of roughly 4 cows (between 100-125litres a day).
The proprietors explained the cheese making process which to all intents and purposes was very straightforward. The ‘raw’ (i.e unpasteurised) milk is placed in a large vat, ‘la présure’ (rennet) is added, how much that is used depends on the type of cheese being made (e.g. a Tome requires a higher concentration to produce its texture and form). The milk is then left to do its work over a period of 24hrs, whereupon the curds are separated from the whey. From there it is either potted up and labelled as ‘Fromage Blanc’ or salt is added to the curds which are then shaped in moulds before they are left to mature in a ‘warm’ refrigerator (around 14C) from anywhere between a week (for the soft centred cheese) to 2+ months for the Tome. After that time the cheese, brushed down in the case of the Tome, is then placed in a ‘cool’ refrigerator where it is stored until it is sold.
I have to say I am really pleased that I visited the Fromagerie as it allowed me to create these Savoury Chelsea buns for lunch. The cheeses complimented the sweet flavour of the dough and the combination of the lardons, cheese and red onion and port marmalade worked better that I could have hoped. Whilst I appreciate unless you go to an extraordinary effort to travel to this part of the world you will be unable to use the same cheeses that I have, do not worry just use the cheeses that you have available that are similar and most importantly that you like! Enjoy!
Savoury Chelsea Buns (makes 12)
For the dough:
- 250g plain flour
- 150g wholemeal flour (Type 80)
- 40g sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 25g fresh yeast
- 50g butter (melted)
- 200ml milk (warmed slightly)
- 2 eggs
For the filling:
- 25g butter (melted)
- 3 heaped tsp red onion and port marmalade (see recipe)
- 2 soft centred cheese, roughly 100g (I used a local cheese, but Rocamdour, Cabecou or even a Brie would do)
- 50-75g Tome, grated (alternatively use medium Cheddar or Gruyere)
- 50-75g lardons or bacon bits
- ½tsp thyme
- 1 egg beaten (for glazing)
1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix together.
2. Place the yeast in a bowl, add the milk, butter and eggs and mix together well.
4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
6. Knock the air out of the dough, place on a floured surface and flatten into a rectangular shape.
7. Brush the dough with the melted butter, spoon over the red onion and port marmalade, scatter over the cheese, lardons and thyme.
9. Place the pieces in a greased and floured tin, brush with the egg wash and leave to rise until they have doubled in size.
10. Once they have risen, bake in an oven at 180C fan for 18-20 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.