First, What Makes Brie and Camembert So Similar?
The recipes and techniques used by cheesemakers are almost identical for both Brie and Camembert.
Brie and Camembert have flavor profiles that are almost identical. Both are often described as tasting mushroomy, eggy, garlicky, nutty,milky, grassy and/or fruity. There are subtle flavor variations between the two, but these variations can be hard to detect, especially when so many versions of Brie and Camembert are factory-produced and made from pasteurized milk. The texture of both Brie and Camembert is also very similar, although Camembert tends to be denser and Brie runnier.
Traditional French Brie and Camembert are made with raw milk. However, the USDA requires that all cheeses made with raw milk be aged at least 60 days before being sold in the US. Brie and Camembert are aged less than 60 days. Therefore, French brands of Brie and Camembert and American versions of Brie and Camembert that are aged less than 60 days and sold in the US are always made from pasteurized milk.
This does not mean that delicious Brie and Camembert cannot be found in the US. Talk to your cheesemonger. It's likely they have some favorite brands to recommend. Cheese writer Janet Fletcher recommends Brie l'Original.
Both Brie and Camembert have bloomy rinds and ripen closest to the rind first. If a wheel of Brie or Camembert is cut into too early the cheese near the rind will be ripe and soft and the middle will be firmer with a lighter, sometimes white, color.
Once a wheel of Brie or Camembert is cut into, it will stop ripening.So, when is a wheel of Brie or Camembert perfectly ripe? This can be a personal preference. However, a perfectly ripened wheel of Brie or Camembert is often thought to be soft and full, bulging slightly against the rind but not running completely out of the rind. Both can have a strong and stinky aroma, but should not smell ammoniated.
Overripe Brie and Camembert often have an unpleasant, powerful aroma and an extremely runny consistency that cannot be contained within the rind. Conversely, Brie or Camembert with a dry, cracked rind and and dry texture is past its prime, too.