I made one of my favorite springtime cheese dishes on Sunday evening: cheese soufflé-stuffed artichokes. And in the process, I found my new favorite cheese. If you like Gruyere or Comte or Appenzeller or Emmenthaler, you'll love Scharfe Maxx. It's a mountain cheese, to the maxx.
I tasted Scharfe Maxx a couple of years ago, and I don't know why it didn't stay on my radar. I remember liking it, but when I tasted some on Sunday, the sentiment was straight-up love. It somehow merges the best qualities of every great mountain cheese.
There's an interesting accompanying story about how the cheese came to be. About ten years ago, the Swiss Cheese Union collapsed. They were a governmental agency that supported the industry of traditional cheesemaking, but weren't exactly behind the development of new cheese styles. When they folded, new Swiss cheeses starting springing up from dairies that had been confined to making a certain style for so many years. Enter Scharfe Maxx.
With innovation comes improvement. The family that produces Scharfe Maxx made Emmentaler and Appenzeller for three generations. Scharfe Maxx has the same semi-firm paste of those two Swiss greats, but tastes creamier (they add actual cream during cheesemaking) and sharper ("scharfe" means sharp). As a result, it's just plain tastier. The paste is smooth and dense. Texturally terrific.
If you can find it, do. It tastes of caramel and nut and fudge. It's slightly funky, in that toasty, melty, cheesy kind of way. The finish is long and sharp, nearly tickling the tongue. And if you're not stuffing artichokes with a soufflé made of the stuff, find a round, full-bodied white to wash it down with.
→ Find it: Scharfe Maxx cheese is available at many fine cheese shops and online at Di Bruno Bros. for $13.99/ half pound.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and recipe developer in New York.
Related: How to Make a Soufflé
(Image: Di Bruno Bros.)