If there's one thing that doesn't need an introduction, it's cheese. And chocolate. Which is coincidental because they both go spectacularly together.
Well, dear cheese lovers, it's about time you baked cheese. Yes, that tasty cheddar and Camembert in your fridge is begging to be gently heated, melted into a creamy, oozy state and dipped into with toasted bread.
"I think it's purely because of the meltability which makes cheese a great ingredient to bake," Warrnambool Cheese and Butter cheese barista Dave Mellor told The Huffington Post Australia. "The fat in cheese make it stay in that melted state, and it's a product which just has that indulgent factor."
The reason why cheese tastes so damn good when melted is because heat changes its structure.
"When baked, it breaks down the proteins in the cheese, so you tend to get a more meaty, brothy taste compared to what the cheese normally is. You get a stronger intensity of flavour, as well," Mellor explained.
"There's a big flavour difference between a cheese in its solid state compared to its melted state. A lot of that difference also comes from the texture."
Look too good to Brie true? Here are the three best ways to bake cheese.
1. Baked Camembert
Oh, Camembert, the king of soft cheeses.
"Obviously you've got baked Camembert. Basically, what I do with my Camembert is put little slits in the top of the cheese and then slide in little pieces of garlic and slithers of thyme or rosemary," Mellor told HuffPost Australia.
"Then bake that in some kind of case -- some Camembert come in a wooden case, which is the best one to go for as when you're baking it, you want the cheese surrounded, so when it melts it becomes soft in texture and body. It's just going to flow out if there's nothing wrapping around it."
If you haven't got a wooden case, Mellor recommends placing the cheese in a little box or ramekin dish to keep the shape together.
"You want to bake the Camembert for around 15 to 20 minutes at around 180 degrees Celsius," Mellor said.
"A lot of people think the longer you cook it, the more melted it's going to get. When, in fact, it's just going to start drying out if you go beyond that. If you start baking for 45 minutes to an hour you're going to end up with a cheese which isn't very good, compared to when you bake it for just 20 minutes."
You'll know when the baked Camembert is ready by feeling the top of the cheese and checking how much give it's got -- but be careful, it's HOT.
"You can feel when the inside has melted. Also, you can just slice off the top of the Camembert before baking, and that way you can see it visually," Mellor said.
"What you shouldn't do is bake the Camembert without slits. The reason for slicing the top is so the Camembert doesn't dry out and to stop the cheese from blowing out if the cheese were to escape. You need those holes for air, and you don't want the cheese to explode on you."
When your Camembert is ready and fit for inhaling, Mellor recommends keeping it simple.
"I think it's as simple as getting some ciabatta, rubbing a bit of garlic on it and toasting it lightly. Use that to dip into the melted cheese. You don't need more than the Camembert because it's such a great tasting cheese."
And if you're worried eating so much cheese will make you feta, well, it probably will, but it's a less fatty option than Brie.
"Camembert has got less fat compared to Brie. People think because Camembert has that better meltability it's going to have more fat, but that's not the case -- Brie has more fat. So it's a pretty good choice," Mellor said.
2. Corn and cheese cob loaf dip
If you've got your own bun in the oven, or simply don't like Camembert, then this baked cob dip is for you.
"This is a good alternative to Camembert because, as we know, soft cheeses aren't suitable for pregnant women," Mellor said.
"With the cob recipe, simply get a nice loaf of cob bread, slice off the top and scoop out the inside bread. This will be our bowl for how we're going to cook, and then eat, our ingredients.
"In a mixing bowl, just use around one cup of tasty or vintage cheese (something with a bit of flavour), and mix in some sliced rashers of bacon to give it that salty-sweet flavour, some spring onions and then add one cup of corn. Mix that together and place the mixture inside the hollowed out loaf and simply put it into the oven, sprinkle more cheese on top, and bake it for around 30 minutes."
What everyone is going to be able to do -- and this makes it great for parties -- is get around and tear the bread, and dip it into the cheese dip. Gooey, creamy, cheesy heaven.
3. Slow cooker cheese dip
This recipe is perfect for when you have small bits of leftover cheese, or when you can't be bothered to make a fuss.
"I have a recipe where I use a slow cooker. When you do cheese platters at parties, you have lots of different types of leftover cheeses. So, shred up all the cheese you've got leftover and chuck it into your slow cooker, add eight ounces [227 grams] of cream cheese and mix that all together," Mellor said.
"You can then add anything you want -- if you've got leftover brussels sprouts or ham, you can put this into your slow cooker and cook that for around 5-10 minutes. This makes a really, really nice cheese dip.
"You can use anything you want to dip. I would go for toasted bread, but if you're more health conscious because you're eating all this cheese, you can definitely go for carrot sticks."
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