Every family has its go-to party trick. I know a hummus family and a chicken wing family, a mac and cheese family and a fruit salad family. I come from a baked something family—what, exactly, depends on the season, the holiday, the mood. Maybe it’s a log of Hebrew National salami, glazed with honey, served with coarse mustard and brown bread. Or maybe it’s a whole wheel of Brie! My mom topped the cheese with pecans and dried cranberries, maple syrup and brown sugar, then plunked that in a round, hollowed-out bread loaf. By the time it emerged from the oven, it was gooey and bubbly, like the easiest-ever fondue.
Don’t get us wrong: We love a cheese plate. And we love a fondue. But sometimes you want something cheesy and cozy and special, and neither feels quite right. Enter the best of both worlds: baked Brie. Instead of worrying about pairing this cheese with that cheese, Brie is your one-stop shop. And instead of making a cheese sauce over the stove, you let the oven do all the work. In fact, the recipe is so low-key, using a recipe almost feels wrong. Just master this strategy—then, come your next party or, you know, Brie craving, you can freewheel as you see fit.
Brie is sold either in whole wheels or cut wedges. In this case, we want the whole wheel. The size depends—and, lucky for us, doesn’t matter. Buy whatever you can find and whatever makes sense for your number of guests. Figure about 1 ounce of cheese per person. The rind is a source of debate amongst Brie fans. Some say removing any rind is unnecessary. Others say get rid of it all. Others say just take away the top. I lean toward the latter, so the toppings get to the know the cheese intimately, while the rind provides a little insurance for the…
Bread or pastry
Bread. The round shape you’re looking for is also known as a boule, or “ball” in English. These are commonly available at bakeries and increasingly so in the bakery section of supermarkets. Often, they’re sourdough, so crusty outside, fluffy inside. On a good day, you might be able to snag a wild card like pumpernickel (my personal favorite). To prepare your bread, lop off the top—just enough so your Brie can fit inside. Then, use your hands to remove the filling (save this for bread crumbs or torn croutons!).
Pastry. Two options here: puff or pie. Both can be store-bought, in the freezer aisle, or made from scratch. Roll both out to about ⅛ inch thick, then place the Brie in the center. After you add your toppings (we’ll get to those in a sec!), bundle the cheese in the pastry. You want it to just cover the cheese, so if there’s any excess, trim with a pair of scissors or knife. Brush with egg wash (egg whisked with a splash of cream, milk, or water) to encourage browning.
Let’s get wild. Our goals are: salty, crunchy + sweet, jammy. This is easily accomplished by—just guess—nuts and jam. You could also do nuts and fresh fruit or nuts and dried fruit, like my mom does, but be wary of raisins and friends burning (being covered helps). As an ode to an old-school favorite, cream cheese with pepper jelly and Ritz crackers, we went with pecans and pepper jelly. But here are a few more combos to play around with: marcona almonds + blueberry jam; pistachios + chopped, fresh apricots; peanuts + golden raisins. If you’re using fresh fruit—or just want to gild the lily—drizzle on some maple syrup or honey. And don’t forget a big pinch of flaky salt.
There are a couple ways to tackle this. First, in a round pan, with sides, say for pie or cake. This will act as a safe home for the Brie, a
cat cheese bed, if you will. Alternatively, you can line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil or a silicone mat. There might be some runaway cheese, but it’ll turn into a crispy, golden frico, which, if we’re being real, is our favorite part. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Bake until the cheese is melty and dippable, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Serve with any of the following: crackers, fresh or dried fruits, nuts, olives, pickles. Most crucially: If you’re serving in a bread bowl, encourage everyone to pull it apart and eat with their hands.
Have you ever baked a Brie before? Tell us how you dressed it up in the comments!