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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Skip the cheese plate and opt for a simple, oozy baked Brie that anyone can make -- and everyone will enjoy.
A cheese plate sounds great in theory. It involves lots of cheese, handwritten signs, and sophisticated accoutrements, all consumed while sipping wine and wearing a fancy outfit (and, at this time of year, watching the Oscars).
The reality is much messier than that. The labels get covered in jam and bread crumbs fall into every crevice. And while some guests might care about the provenance of your raw milk goat cheese imported from France, most just want to enjoy their cheese.
More: If you are set on making a cheese plate, here's how to do it well.
The solution? Bake some Brie. When wrapped in buttery pastry, stuffed with jam or a salty spread, and baked until it oozes, Brie becomes sexy enough for the red carpet. It might not be as exotic as your cheese plate, but that’s alright. It’s warm and melty, and really, who doesn’t like that?
Here's how to make your own:
1. Pick your ingredients wisely. Your most important choice is the filling. For a savory dish, use spreads like pesto or chutney; if you’re feeling more ambitious, sauté mushrooms and onions with garlic and herbs or make another vegetable filling. If you’re in the mood for sweets, on the other hand, almost any jam will work. Or, fill the Brie with fresh berries or sautéed apples or pears -- they'll slacken and melt into the warm, oozy cheese.
If you’re using a spread or jam, you’ll only need about 1/4 cup. For sautéed fruits or vegetables, a generous 1/2 cup is perfect.
2. Roll out your dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your sheet of puff pastry until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Trim the edges until you have a 10-inch circle. If you’re not great at estimating, you can place a 10-inch pie plate on top of the dough and simply trace it with your knife. Ta da -- perfect circle!
3. Cut the cheese like a hamburger bun. Slice the round of Brie in half horizontally. Place the bottom half, cut side-up, in the center of the dough round. Spoon your filling on top of the cheese, then place the other half, cut side-down, on top.
4. Fold it up. Wrap the dough up and around the side of the cheese. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pleat the top, but a more messy (ahem, rustic) look is just fine. The goal is just to keep your cheese tightly bundled.
5. Make it shine. A simple egg wash will give your baked Brie a beautiful luster. Just mix an egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and brush the mixture on top of the Brie to lightly coat it.
6. Warm it up. Place the cheese on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 375° F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Your cheese might have oozed a little, but that's okay -- it'll make your guests less hesitant to dig in.
Let the cheese rest for 5 minutes. For extra flourish, add a drizzle of olive oil, a swirl of honey, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Then slice open the wheel, get out some crackers and a knife, and start spreading.
Photos by James Ransom
What are your go-to party foods? Share with us in the comments below!