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Baking Brie. January 19, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. From what I’ve been told, the soft, creamy, gooey, buttery, golden cheese with the white rind known as Brie is one you either love or hate. Our friend Ben and I are in the “love” category. We love slivers of Brie with buttered slices of crusty baguette and crispy, crunchy apple slices, or with crunchy red bell pepper rings and table water crackers, or with wheatmeal biscuits and grapes or slivered pears, or with assertive, crackling, multigrain crackers and pretty much anything you want. But our favorite way to enjoy Brie is baked.

OFB and I discovered baked Brie years ago at a Christmas party hosted by one of my work colleagues, Rana. Until that very moment, I’d always thought of Brie as a savory cheese. But Rana baked her Brie with a topping of butter and brown sugar, then served the hot, meltingly soft results with dipping crackers that were themselves rich, salty, and buttery, like Ritz crackers. Dubiously dipping our crackers into the sugar-coated Brie, our friend Ben and I took our first tentative bites and decided that we’d died and gone to Heaven, or that Heaven had decided to take pity and pay us a visit on that particular Christmas. Thank you, Rana!!!

I never forgot this culinary visit to the heavenly realms. Years later, when I was admiring the many hand-crafted items in a nearby shop that showcases local artists, I saw a handmade ceramic dish created specifically to bake the rounds of Brie now widely available in grocery stores. It even came with a hand-carved wooden spreading knife and a recipe. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the shop with the carefully wrapped Brie baker, knife, and recipe clutched to my heart. And, since I’m such a sweet, lovable person, I’ll share that recipe with you:

               Baked Brie

1 8-ounce wheel Brie cheese

2 tablespoons white wine (such as a dry Riesling)

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Place Brie in ceramic baker. Combine wine and orange juice and spread over Brie. Cover with almonds. Place in oven, then turn to 325 degrees F. to let dish warm up with oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve with French bread rounds. Serves 6-8.

Sounds yummy, right? Well, try it and see what you think! Meanwhile, here are some baked-Brie variations I’ve come up with to expand your eating pleasure. Note that a baked Brie appetizer is especially delicious served during a leisurely cocktail hour with a dry Riesling, champagne, spumante, or other sparkling wine like a blackberry sparkler (a regional specialty), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, or a Compari and soda (served, of course, with a slice of lime). And don’t forget the fresh fruit!

One further note: Once you’ve put your Brie in the oven, keep an eye on it. You want it melting-soft and heated through and the toppings all “cooked,” but you don’t want burned, dried-out, or blackened Brie or toppings. Check at 10 minutes, again at 15, and again at 20 if it’s not done before that. Don’t raise the oven temperature higher than 325 degrees F. If the toppings seem to be drying out too fast, add another splash of liquid and/or cover the Brie dish with aluminum foil.

Brie Southern style: Expanding on Rana’s basic concept, I like to put a coating of brown sugar on a wheel of Brie, press in pecan pieces for a good crunch, then dot the top with tiny bits of butter before baking. Oh, yum! A buttery cracker like Ritz is essential with this. And yes, you can up the ante by sprinking a little cinnamon over the Brie before baking.

Brie Mediterranean: Cover the top of a wheel of Brie with fresh minced sprigs of thyme, mint, rosemary, and basil. Add pitted kalamata halves and a spritz of extra-virgin olive oil, some fresh-ground pink, white, green, and black pepper, and sea salt to taste (or skip the olives and add a splash of ouzo), bake, and serve with wedges of puffy Greek-style pita.

Brie for brunch: Because Brie is so rich and luscious, it lends itself to a topping of peach or plum jam, apricot preserves, quince jam, apple or pumpkin butter, cherry preserves, seedless black raspberry jam, or marmalade. Oh, yum, once the Brie is baked, roll a generous tablespoonful (or more) of any of these combos in a pancake, crepe, or blintz, top with sour cream or creme fraiche or even applesauce and cinnamon, and serve with Mimosas. Wow!

Brie with a burn: Try baked Brie topped with a spicy-hot chutney, red or green Jalapeno pepper jelly,  blackberry/Black Czech hot pepper jelly, or apricot/lemon Habanero preserves. Spread the baked Brie on a slice of crusty baguette or hot cornbread, or eat it on hot-from-the-griddle corncakes, rolled in a warm tortilla, or on cornmeal crackers. 

Brie Casablanca: Cover the top of a wheel of Brie with minced dried apricots, minced dates, fresh shredded unsweetened coconut, slivered almonds, ground cumin powder, ground red and black pepper, several tablespoons of fresh-squeezed orange, lemon, or lime juice, and salt to taste. Serve the baked Brie hot with Greek-style pita, naan, or other flatbread, or with table water crackers.

Brie Oriental: Spread a thin layer of orange sauce (I like Iron Chef Orange Sauce with Ginger) over a wheel of Brie. Top with Mandarin orange slices and finely chopped green onions (scallions). Add a couple of tablespoons of juice from the Mandarin orange can, bake, and serve hot with table water or rice crackers. Variations: Up the ginger quotient by adding finely minced fresh or crystallized (candied) ginger to the topping before baking. Substitute tamarind or duck sauce for the orange sauce, and slivered plums or pluots for the Mandarin oranges.

Needless to say, the possibilities are endless. Even now, I’m fantasizing about creating Brie Margaritaville, with tequila, margarita mix, a sprinkling of margarita salt, and maybe some lime zest for good measure. Hmmm… what would Jimmy Buffett do?

How do you like your Brie?

            ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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Comments»

1. nancybond - January 19, 2010

Yum! I fall into the “love it” category, and your Brie for brunch really appeals. :) Thanks for sharing.

My pleasure, Nancy! Enjoy! (Of course, after writing this, I had to have Brie for lunch!)

2. fairegarden - January 20, 2010

One more idea, the wrap it in puff pastry after topping with cranberry chutney, or other type, and bake. What a treat! My mouth is watering so much right now, I have to go eat something this minute! Thanks!
Frances

Oh, yum, Frances! Wrapping it in phyllo with rose jam also comes to mind…

3. alexisannewilliams - January 25, 2013

Great post! Thanks for the suggestions! I love mine baked with pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and pine nuts on top.

Wow, Alexis! Mediterranean brie!


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