Bread Cheese Is A Strange Name, But A Great Breakfast

The cheese with a dappled brown crust is a great way to start the day.

The top of the cheese was speckled and toasted, and looked intimidatingly good. It had been sent to me last month by master cheesemaker Sid Cook of Carr Valley Cheese, to whom I'd spoken about the history of blue cheese in Wisconsin. Cook insisted that I couldn't write about Wisconsin blue without trying some, so he shipped me a box—and included in the package was this toasty, tempting brick of bread cheese.

I live in Vermont, a place very far from the Midwest and a place where cheddar reigns supreme. Bread cheese was something I'd never encountered. I knew you could heat it, and I assumed it was served with a cracker or something savory. But the packaging suggested very different accoutrements: honey, jam, syrup, and coffee.

I did a little research and found out that while you can pair bread cheese with whatever you like, it's traditionally a breakfast cheese. I'd never eaten cheese for breakfast, and this all made me think it was going to be a new wonderful addition to my life. Which meant I needed to put it on a pedestal and wait for the perfect moment to eat it (aka I kept meaning to eat it and then forgetting).

But the influence of bread cheese appears to be spreading. On a recent ALDI shopping trip, I spied that familiar dappled brick of cheese in the dairy section. Much like the one from Carr Valley, the label offered suggestions and pairings: maple syrup, jam, honey, "or enjoy it the traditional way — dipped in coffee!" A second package was now beckoning me to try this wonder of cheese ingenuity. What is this cheese, and should we all be eating it for breakfast?

What is bread cheese?

As The Takeout explained in 2019, bread cheese is a Midwest-made delicacy with Finnish roots. In Finland, it's called juustoleipä, which translates to "cheese bread." It was originally made with reindeer milk, but here it's made with cow milk.

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Some people say it's called bread cheese because it has a caramelized quality that makes it look like grilled bread. Personally, I think it looks more like the top of a good pizza or flatbread—but not the bread part, the cheese part. Wisconsin Cheese concurs that it looks like a piece of toasted bread, hence the name, explaining that in order to get that toasted appearance, it's baked in special ovens until the sugars on the outside begin to caramelize. For me, the baking it in the oven part feels like an even more compelling reason to call it "bread cheese."

Is bread cheese a breakfast food?

I arranged a breakfast-themed taste test of the two bread cheeses I had available to me: the Carr Valley version and the ALDI version. I cut each cheese into four cubes and left one long piece for dipping into coffee, which I'll admit was the most compelling of the breakfasty suggestions I had seen on the packaging. Have you ever thought to dip cheese in coffee before?

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The packages said I should heat the cheese up, either by microwaving or by heating it in a skillet. I don't have a microwave, so I went with the skillet. Despite their difference in color—the Carr Valley one was more yellow than the ALDI one—the cheeses behaved similarly in the pan. Small pools of oil formed around the cubes, but for the most part, the cheese just got toasty on the sides that were in contact with the pan. The cheese didn't melt; it just got soft and heated through.

I ate it while it was still warm, dressing a couple of cubes with strawberry jam. I didn't have any honey, but since I live in Vermont I'm basically legally required to have maple syrup on hand, so that went on another pair of cubes. I left one plain, to see what it tasted like on its own, and then I left a few cubes off to the side, in order to dress them with whichever condiment ended up tasting best.

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Eaten plain, bread cheese was in the realm of a salty mozzarella for me, though its texture is much more firm. It worked just fine with the strawberry jam pairing. The cheese itself is kind of spongy, and that played nicely with the texture and flavor of the jam. The maple syrup, though, was another ballgame. It was a distinctly French-toast-like experience, but with an added depth of dense, salty cheesiness. This combo made me suddenly feel extremely grateful I had heeded the label and tried bread cheese as a breakfast food, because it was wonderful. Novel, delicious, and undeniably breakfasty.

As for the point of the most intrigue, dunking it in coffee, I could see how this is a romantic, nice thing to do on a cold Scandinavian morning, sitting by the fireplace and watching snow fall, and perhaps I will do this in the winter too. But on a sunny July morning, I wasn't feeling the cozy vibes. The only thing I ever really dunk in coffee is an old fashioned donut from Dunkin', which absorbs the coffee; the bread cheese didn't absorb any at all, so the experience fell a little short for me. It just kind of added a subtle bitterness to the cheese. Which was fine, but not groundbreaking.

Where to buy bread cheese

Yes, you should add bread cheese to your breakfast rotation. As for which one to buy, you're good with whichever variety you have access to. The taste of the two cheeses was remarkably similar, save for their color. I'm not sure who made the ALDI-branded one, which is labeled "Emporium Selection." It stands to reason ALDI contracts specialty cheese makers to supply its products, perhaps even Carr Valley, but that's pure speculation on my part. For what it's worth, several Redditors found Carr Valley's branded version at ALDI locations in 2021.

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Carr Valley sells its bread cheese online for $8.99 per 10-oz. brick. I can attest that it travels well (and it comes in several flavors, like garlic and pizza). The ALDI version, which at my store cost $4.29, comes in a 6-oz. brick. ALDI's website lists the bread cheese as a seasonal item and says to "see store for price," so the price may vary, as may its availability. But if you can get some, I'd say definitely do it, and try it as a breakfast food. Cubed with maple syrup is a new breakfast obsession for me, and I'm not ruling out dipping it in coffee again once romantic fireplace and snowstorm weather is back.

 

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