A Special Appetizer You can Assemble the Day Before Your Event, and Bake off as your Guests Arrive
If you are looking for a special appetizer that is quick, easy, and can be assembled the day before your holiday or event, a wheel of Camembert or Brie, baked in puff pastry, and dressed up with any number of fruits and savories fits the bill. You can assemble the entire dish the day before, tuck it in the refrigerator, and quickly bake it off just before your guests arrive. It makes a beautiful presentation, and rarely is there a crumb left. If you have someone with nut allergies, just omit the pecans. This is one of my favorite combinations.
1 8-ounce Camembert cheese
2 tbsp. or so chunky cranberry sauce
1 heaping tsp. minced fresh tarragon
Zest of one small lime
2 or 3 tbsp. toasted pecans
1 sheet of puff pastry
Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and let thaw on the counter for a half hour. This is the most time consuming part of the process until the bake!
Toast your nuts in a dry frying pan just until they start to color and become aromatic. Don’t walk away from these while they are cooking. Place in a cold bowl to stop the cooking.
Chop a few pieces of crystalized ginger into smaller pieces. Zest the lime, and mince the tarragon. Measure after you’ve minced.
Prepare your cheese: Slice your Camembert in half at the equator. Sprinkle the zest and the tarragon evenly over both sides. Spoon the cranberry sauce over the bottom half evenly, use as much as you like, Camembert can stand up to other flavors. Top with the pecans and finish off with the ginger. Flip the top over onto the bottom.
Prep the pastry: On a lightly floured board roll out the sheet of pastry to a 12” square, more or less. Round off the corners of the dough with a sharp knife and save the scraps if you want to decorate a little.
Make it pretty: Place the cheese in the middle of the pastry and fold up and around the cheese. You can make an egg wash with an egg beaten with a tablespoon of water to act like glue if you are having trouble folding it up.
In the thick parts of the folds, use a sharp knife to make tiny slits. This will encourage the dough to puff up nicely. If you like, use the scraps to make little leaves or other decorations.
Let it chill out: Return to the refrigerator for at least a half hour. You want the dough to be really cold when it hits the hot oven to get the best puff. If you are making it the day before, cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating. Do not skip the chilling step.
Bake: Lightly brush with the egg wash, avoiding the slits (the egg can seep into these and prevent puffing). Sprinkle with a little coarse salt if you like.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the cheese on a piece of parchment on a baking sheet on the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes and check. It may need more time depending on your oven, but it will be golden brown when ready.
Let cool for 10 minutes to let the cheese firm up a little and because you really don’t want to burn your tongue. If you like, drizzle with honey, and serve with fruit slices and crackers.
There are a hundred substitutions you can make, so use your imagination and think of flavors you love together.
Combine whatever nut you like, and your favorite fruit or savory jam. I haven’t found a combination that does not go well together! Add a citrus zest and herb if you like.
Swap out the jam with sundried tomatoes mixed with chopped olives and Italian seasoning–really delicious!
Or try any favorite nut with sweet and savory possibilities: orange marmalade, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms, horseradish jelly, or Jalapeno jam.
© Copyright 2018 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read
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