Spring has sprung in Bavaria and consequently the beer garden season has begun. If you have never been in Bavaria, you might think that a beer garden is simply a place where beer and hearty food is served outdoors. But what makes traditional Bavarian beer gardens special is the fact that you are allowed to bring your own food.
One of the classic beer garden food staples is Obatzda, a cheese spread traditionally made with camembert and butter and seasoned with onions and paprika powder. It was invented as a way to use leftover cheese that would not be enjoyable on its own anymore. Nowadays many recipes try to cut down on calories by replacing some of the butter with sour cream or creamcheese, but here I am not going to make any compromises. Still my version is not quite as heavy as the traditional 50/50 mix of cheese and butter, but not because of calorie counting but because I believe that the cheese has to be the star of this dish.
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6 as a snack):
- 250 g French camembert, from raw milk if possible, about 1 week before the “best before” date
- 125 g unsalted butter, grass fed if possible
- 1 shallot
- 1 teaspoon Pimenton de la Vera
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Chives as garnish
For this simple recipe the qulity of raw materials is crucial. In Bavaria cheap German “camembert” is commonly used that taste-wise is just a shadow of the French original. We want the the best possible camembert cheese with a strong but not pungent taste. Also the butter should be of the highest possible quality. It should not be just fat but have a distinctive taste of its own. If you are really serious about Obatzda, try a few brands of butter before and pick the best one.
For the same reason I use shallots and not regular onions because they are much more aromatic. Pimenton de la Vera is the Spanish smoked paprika powder that gives chorizo its distinctive colour and taste. It comes in a mild and a hot variety, it is up to you to decide what to use, I prefer to use mainly the mild variety and add just a bit of the hot for a slight zing. The subtle smokiness adds a bit more depth to the spread than regular paprika powder.
- Preparation: 10 minutes
- Resting time: 2 hours or longer
Make sure butter and cheese are at room temperature. Chop the shallot finely, cut cheese and butter into small pieces. In a small bowl mash cheese, butter and shallots with a fork until you get a homogenous paste. Mix in the paprika powder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let rest in the fridge for at least two hours so the flavours can merge.
Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped chives and enjoy with pretzels or bread and Bavarian beer.