bits and pieces

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Festive Baked Brie with Sugared Cranberries

It's the holidays!

Snow is here, temperatures have dropped, and vacation (at least for some of us) is almost here. On top of this, the winter holidays are a time for friends, family, and eating. All wonderful things to be sure, but sometimes the pressure of entertaining can be exhausting. I am notorious for panicking when people come over if I don't have 14 separate dishes to feed them.

Global Regina asked me back to feature my favourite and easiest 'make-ahead' holiday dish. My mind immediately jumped to baked brie.

It's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and is ready with only 5 minutes of hands on time. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in your fridge or freezer, or you can make it in the aforementioned 5 minutes and wow your guests.

I make a GIANT wheel of brie for my cousins Robert and Kendra every summer and they go bananas. Robert grudgingly decided it was OK if I was dating his cousin provided I continued to make baked brie at every family gathering. It's a small price to pay especially considering I get to eat it too.

This dish can be as simple or as fancy as you'd like it to be. I've topped it here with sugared cranberries, but you can top it with caramelized onions, bacon jam, roasted peppers, mustard pickles, figs, date jam, whatever your heard desires! You can also have it plain, and enjoy the warm, gooey, soft, delicious cheesiness of the dish. If the rind of the brie grosses you out, simply scrape it off with a butter knife, or alternately, cut a thin layer off the top of the brie, allowing you instant access to it's cheesey goodness.

Don't over bake it as you can encounter the sad and tragic 'exploding baked brie' when a wall of phyllo bursts and melted cheese ends up everywhere except in your mouth. It doesn't need to be cooked - only heated to the point of glorious melting. It's like a cheese fondue contained in a tiny phyllo shell. For those of you who aren't familiar with phyllo you can buy it near the frozen pie shells and puff pastry in your grocery store. If you're unsure about the phyllo of this all, you can also roll out a block of puff pastry and wrap it up and bake according to instructions.

Once it's out of the oven, you can either dig in with a sliced and toasted baguette or crackers of your choosing.

Phyllo pastry. As noted above, you can use puff pastry as well if you'd prefer. 
Brie or Camembert. You can use a whole wheel or a generous slice.  I've used brie here, but Camembert works just as well. 
Approx. 1/4 cup of melted butter / olive oil. If you're really rushed for time/feeling lazy you can use that spray stuff, but I always prefer butter. Shocking I know. 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: festive toppings! Cranberries, caramelized onions, red chili jam….
A baguette or crackers to eat with.

other things you will need: 
a greased tray/pan to bake your brie on
a small pot to melt your butter in (if necessary). 
a pastry brush to brush your phyllo layers with. 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Lay out one sheet of phyllo pastry.
  3. Brush with butter/oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Place cheese in the centre of the pastry and wrap it up!
  5. Lay out another sheet of pastry, brush with oil, sprinkle with seasoning, and wrap.
  6. Repeat once more for a total of 3 layers of pastry. Brush outer layer liberally with butter/oil.  
  7. Bake for 22 minutes at 350 until golden brown. This freezes well, will stay in your fridge for 3 days, and is fabulous fresh out of the oven!


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