So I decided to bring to my Tuesday-party the easiest appetizer the world has ever thought of: baked brie. After all, it is wonderful cheese, plus fruit, plus yum equals... umm... yum? (math isn't my strong suit).
If I could describe my cooking experience yesterday, I would quote one of my favorite redheads Anne Shirley and say "it's such a Jonah day." (that's just the kind of thing people don't say anymore, which makes me sad.)
Even shopping for the baked brie turned out to be a Jonah adventure... first the cheese-monger decided not to have the rounds of brie (although I have seen them on several occasions), and just the slices - fine, I'll muscle through. But, to top it off, neither of two stores had red (or even green) pepper jelly. (I know for a fact Harmon's, Super Target and Kroger all have them, however I live in a field surrounded by a Wal-Mart on both sides, and an Army base, which can be hit and miss.) Sufficient to say, it was a cooking adventure. And it just goes to prove that my grandmother's saying "in a pinch" is useful.
(side-note, reading her recipes are fantastic. "soak raisins in apple juice overnight. in a pinch, microwave for 15-20 seconds." she always gives you an alternate.)
Speaking of my grandmother, her daughter - My Fabulous Aunt Liz gave me this recipe. She is the source of many wonderful things in this life. And, apparently, the person who made brie more readily available to me. Just one of the many things I have to thank her for. That and my love of boots, and wariness of liquid eyeliner (because it is a SKILL and not to be taken lightly).
What can you say about baked brie? It's easy. It's versatile. And it is delish. Perfect to bring to a formal coffee event with the military, or to bring out before your next casual dinner party.
Step the first, at least 3-4 hours before you want to make your brie, take the pre-made puff pastry out of the freezer. You will not see a lot of pre-made things on this blog, but puff pastry is one of them. Why? Because it's ridiculously time consuming to make (not like easy things like tortillas or pie dough). And, to add insult to injury, it doesn't taste any better than the kind you purchase in your local freezer section. So do yourself (and myself) a favor and give into this one. You'll be so happy you skipped that step. Plus, Alton Brown told me not to bother with making my own. So I don't. Because Alton rarely lies to me (minus our disagreements with proofing yeast).
Now that you're ready to put this together, get out your cheese. mmm.... cheese. Brie is just so creamy and delicious, I could eat it all day. But then I wouldn't be able to fit into my pants, so sharing is preferred (not that I haven't eaten an entire wheel by myself at a Super Bowl party... whatever).
I prefer to cut the rind off of my brie. I know it's eatable, but I have a thing with textures, so it must go in my book. If you have no texture issue, feel free to skip this step.
Now unfold and roll out your puff pastry (note, this is puff pastry, not phyllo dough. Although I have accidentally used the latter, I promise this tastes like 8 times better). Roll it out slightly. obviously, this depends on how much cheese you plan on putting in there. Today I had such a small square of cheese that I ended up over-rolling, and trimmed some off.
Add some jelly to the pastry right over where your cheese is going to go. As I said before, the preferred jelly is a red pepper jelly, and is generally quite easy to find (if you don't live in the middle of nowhere). However, I have also tried this with green pepper jelly, and with ginger marmalade. All of them are good options. Today I tried a new jam: Red Currant. It was lovely, and I may be making this switch again. This is especially good if someone you know is 100% heat-resistant for their food. The pepper jelly has a subtle after-punch, and this has a great not-to-sweet flavor I am happy I tried.
Now add the cheese (if you're like me and have to fib on your cheese shape, just create a square out of your triangles... see, looks like I did learn something in math class after all).
And, just for good measure, add some more jelly. Just because you're fancy like that. And because it is good.
Now, seal it up. Make sure there isn't a hole the cheese can creep out of anywhere, and put an egg-wash (yup, just brush an egg on top) over the top. If you feel so inclined, decorate the delicious little package with pecans. I've also decorated with craisins for a poka-dot look.
|I generally twist opposite corners to make a little "package" shape, but a basic square works. So long as it's sealed, you'll be happy. And happiness is what cheese is all about.|
Stick it in a 530 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, and share it with your friends when it comes out. Serve with fruit (we had apples, pears and craisins last night) and crackers.
Now sit back and relax, because in less than 5 minutes, you have created a gourmet appetizer. And now everyone will want to come to your parties. Congrats.
|I meant to take a picture of this much earlier in the party... but you forget about it for a few minutes, and look what happens.|
1 6 or 8 inch round of Brie (rind-trimming optional)
1 jar of Red Pepper Jelly (or reasonable facimilie)
1 sheet pre-made puff pastry (thawed)
Pecans or Cranberries (optional)
Defrost pastry overnight.
Roll pastry so it's flat and round.
Put a layer of jam, cheese, and a second layer of jam in center of rolled pastry sheet
Encase the cheese completely with pastry. Seal edges well.
Brush pastry with egg wash. Decorate as needed.
Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Serve with crackers, grapes, crackers and pear slices.