Fromage d’Enguien; or, Turns out it was cheese after all

Mrs Hindle is not deterred by weirdness and so today I’m going back to (probably) Moutier and his instructions on how to cook for French toffs – the “Dictionnaire Portatif de Cuisine, D’Office, et de Distillation”. Today’s recipe is for a cream cheese called Fromage d’Enguien.

I tried to find out who or what d’Enguien was and why there was a cheese called after it, and the closest I can get to is Enghien, a county in modern-day Belgium. The Duc d’Enghien is a noble title first created in the 16th century. Later the title itself was separated from the actual landholdings and the name Duke of Enghien became a courtesy title held by the oldest son of the Prince of Condé, a now-extinct branch of the French royal Bourbon-family. At the time the Dictionnaire Portatif was published, in 1767, the Prince of Condé was 31-year-old Louis Joseph de Bourbon, recently-widowed and in the middle of a scandalous love affair with the wife of the prince of Monaco. Their illicit affair lasted until the death of the prince of Monaco in 1795, after which the two were married. His son Louis Henri, who was the 11-year-old Duke of Enghien in 1767, went on to be the last of the Condé line after his son was executed by Napoleon.

Since my book is in Finnish I won’t write out the full recipe, I’ll just walk you through what I did. What you need for this cream cheese is:

  • pinte, or 0,9 liters of milk
  • 1 chopine, or 4,7 dl of cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 lemons, the grated rind from one and the juice from both
  • sugar (3 tblsp)
  • orange-blossom water (1 tblsp)

The recipe doesn’t specify the amount of sugar or orange-blossom water needed, so I made it up and gave you the amounts I used.

Start by grating the rind from one lemon. Then squeeze the juice from both into a pinte (0,9 liters) of water.

Separate the eggs into whites and yolks. Put the whites into a metal bowl and whisk them. You might as well whisk them in a saucepan since you’ll need one later on anyway. Add the yolks one at a time and keep whisking, all the while thanking your lucky stars you have an electric beater. I did wonder why the instructions insisted on separating the eggs since they would all get beaten together anyway, but I swear the end result was frothier than if I had whisked them without separating them first.

Into the egg-froth you pour the milk, cream, orange-blossom water, sugar and lemon rind. The recipe says you can also add a little salt, but I didn’t.

Now set your saucepan on the stove and start heating it all up carefully. Make sure your saucepan is big enough – I used a 3-liter one and it was barely sufficient, but it’s the biggest one I have. Must invest in more voluminous equipment.

Keep a close eye on your mixture as it heats up, and keep your lemon water at hand. The moment it begins to boil, drizzle some lemon water into the pot in a circular motion along the sides. The lemon water stops it from boiling over, and starts to curdle the milk at the same time.

This pot is barely big enough. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been a little bit too slow in pouring in the lemon water. Mr Hindle complains enough as it is about having to clean up after me in the kitchen.

Wait for it to boil up again, and drizzle some more water. Repeat this five or six times. When you’ve used all your lemon water take the pot off the stove and let it cool for a while.

Get a cheese cloth and a cheese form, or, failing that, a colander. I only have a colander. A cheese cloth is handy though, but any cloth that allows water to drain through it will work. Using a skimmer, lift your curdled mixture from the pot and into the colander. Suspend the colander over a bigger bowl, otherwise you’ll have a mess on your hands.

I have a good feeling about this.

In hindsight I should perhaps have patted the mixture down a bit into the form, now I just left it to drain for four or five hours in the fridge.

The recipe recommends eating the cheese with whipped cream and sugar, but I chose to serve it as it was, with some fresh bread.

What I ended up with, once I tipped it out of the colander, was a creamy and mild cheese with a delicate taste of lemon and orange-blossom. It was easy, too – the recipe looks convoluted and time-consuming, but really, it only took 20 minutes or so in addition to the cooling and setting. It was perhaps not the prettiest of cheeses, but if I’d had a nicer form to have it settle in it would have looked as good as it tasted.

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