BELLOWS FALLS—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.
Thaw at room temperature for a half hour:
¶1 sheet of puff pastry
On a lightly floured board, roll out to 12 in. or so. Trim the corners to make a roundish shape, and save the scraps to make decorations if desired.
Slice in half at its equator:
¶1 wheel (8 ounces) Camembert cheese
Over both cut sides, evenly divide and sprinkle:
¶1 heaping tsp. minced fresh tarragon
¶Zest of one small lime
On the bottom side, spoon in layers:
¶2 Tbsp. whole berry cranberry sauce
¶2 to 3 tbsp. toasted pecans
¶1 Tbsp. crystalized ginger, minced
Flip the top over onto the bottom and place in the center of the pastry sheet.
Place the cheese in the middle of the pastry. Fold the dough up and around the cheese. You can make an egg wash with an egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water to act like glue if you are having trouble getting the dough to stick.
In the thick parts of the folds, use a sharp knife to make tiny slits, which will encourage the dough to puff up nicely. If you like, use the scraps to make little leaves or other decorations.
Return to the refrigerator for at least a half hour. If you are making this the day before, cover it with plastic wrap. You will want the dough to be really cold when it hits the hot oven to get the best puff, so don’t skip the chilling step.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush with the egg wash, avoiding the slits. (The egg can seep into these and prevent puffing.)
Place the cheese on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack until golden brown; check after 25 minutes. It might need more time depending on your oven.
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.
Variations: 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!
• Try any favorite nut with sweet and savory possibilities: orange marmalade, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms, horseradish jelly, or jalapeño jam.