Q: When a recipe calls for "swiss cheese," which cheese do they mean -- gruye re or emmenthaler? I bought a piece of "imported gruye re" that was labeled emmenthaler on the rind. They are two, different cheeses, aren't they?
A: Gruye re and emmenthaler come from two different Swiss valleys separated by about 30 miles of mountains. The Swiss have a saying: "Gruye re is to emmenthaler as burgundy is to bordeaux." That is, they are distinctly different and "vive la difference."
Both cheeses belong to the same category -- the "eyed" cheeses -- and are made by virtually identical processes. A few small differences in aging, however, are enough to produce two separate cheeses. Gruye re, for example, contains a little less water. It is therefore stronger-tasting (its hazelnut-like flavor is delicious in cheese fondue and cheese soups and sauces), is less appropriate as a topping for a gratine'e and has a granular texture. Emmenthaler's mild flavor makes it more appropriate for cheese sandwiches; its smooth texture makes it an ideal appetizer or snack. In many dishes the two are used together.
The two cheeses also differ in appearance. A wheel of gruye re is about half the size of a wheel of emmenthaler (125 pounds versus 250 pounds). Gruye re's surface is powdery and gray owing to a coating of dead microbial cells (molds, yeast and bacteria). Emmenthaler, on the other hand, is surrounded by a clean, smooth surface because it is scrubbed with brine daily.
In the United States, we call emmenthaler "swiss cheese." Gruye re has no American equivalent. If you're a label-reader, you may have noticed that the foil-wrapped triangles sold under a number of names (one being La Vache Qui Rit -- the laughing cow) say, "processed gruye re cheese." These gruye re-flavored triangles are made in the same way as American cheese, which is mostly processed cheddar. The gruye re is shredded, then melted together with water and emulsifying salts.
Q: Is it possible to prepare a fudge-like candy sweetened solely with honey? I tried making penuche with honey instead of sugar. It scorched and never crystallized.
A: Honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose, two sugars with solubilities (how much dissolves in X amount of water) far higher than that of sucrose, or table sugar. That means you would have to concentrate the candy syrup beyond the soft ball stage -- the normal concentration for making fudge. Honey begins to brown, then scorch when heated much beyond 240 degrees, which is the upper limit of the soft ball stage. What you can do, however, is produce a soft toffee. Here's a recipe: LEMON-HONEY TOFFEE (Makes 18 1-inch squares)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place honey, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. When the syrup reaches the boiling point, cook it to the thread stage (230 degrees), reduce heat to medium and add the butter and lemon juice. Continue to boil to the firm side of the soft ball stage (240 degrees). Drop a little of the mixture into a bowl of cold water; the syrup should readily form a ball when you scoot it around the bottom with your finger. Remove pan from heat and pour the syrup into a buttered dish. When cool, cut into little squares.
Instead of cutting the candy, you might pinch off small pieces, roll between your palms and then in chopped pecans. Or, if you're a chocoholic, dip them in melted semisweet chocolate.