Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baked Brie

This blog is a roller coaster sometimes, isn't it?  Well, such is the story of my life, haha!  While I want to delve into the deeper topics when the opportunity arises, I realize many of you come for other reasons like projects and party ideas and stories about our country life and the kids.  And a whole lot of you come here for tasty recipes!  So to reward your patience with my preaching from the soapbox, here is a tasty appetizer that will serve you well for any crowd and impress without a lot of money or effort.

My mom originated baked brie in our family.  Let's just say that her side of the family tends not to be very adventurous when it comes to food.  While my grandmother always cooked and canned, there is a standard menu that is not very often deviated from and odd cheeses like brie are not on it.  My mom, however, always likes to try new things and I remember being a little girl and my mom's group of lady friends from church and work and school all getting together for the most fabulous brunches in the dining room or on the front porch if the weather was nice.  
The great part about hosting a brunch like this is that it can be done on a very small budget and still be impressive to your guests.  For much of my childhood, my mom worked two jobs while my dad was starting his own business so money was tight and small pleasures were hard earned.  This brie recipe is one of the little splurges she would make to elevate the menu to impressive status.  She would surround it with fresh fruit and crackers for serving on all the good china and then provide an egg/bread brunch casserole, some sort of potato hash, orange juice with a splash of lemon-lime soda pop for a kid-safe mimosa, and her homemade cinnamon rolls.

I have made this brie for just my husband and I in the past and he really enjoys it even though he is not one to generally like sweet tastes in anything but desserts.  Thanksgiving was the first time I had made it for the kids and they loved it.  It is a great appetizer to leave out all day because even once it cools it is still delicious and people will pick at it all day.  The rich buttery taste of the brie oozing out of the flaky crust is really complimented by the hints of sweet of the maple and fruit.  That hint of sweetness just takes the edge off the sort of funky taste of brie and focuses your taste buds on the buttery flavors.

So, is your mouth watering yet?  You will need a whole round of brie with the rind.  I found it in the deli area of my local Walmart for roughly $3 - you can certainly find more expensive versions at local deli's and specialty stores, but I don't find it necessary for this recipe.  You will also need a few apples and crackers (whatever kinds you like are just fine) for serving.  The rest will pretty much come from your pantry.
Start by making a simple one-pastry pie crust.  I love good ol' Betty Crocker's recipe.  All you need is flour, salt, shortening and water.  A flaky pie crust is something that takes some practice but really the trick is to not mess with it any more than you have to.  You don't want to knead it like you would bread dough - you want to just fold it over and press it into the bottom of the bowl and then flip and press down again.  Repeat several times until all the flour and pieces form one dough.  Start with the 2 tablespoons of cold water and then if its too dry and you have to do the fold and press more than 10 or so times, sprinkle 1 more tablespoon of water across the top and fold some more.  You don't want your dough too wet or dry and the amount of water you need will change each time depending on the heat and humidity of the room you are in.
When it starts to look like this, stop messing with it, haha.  Dump it out on a lightly floured surface and roll to about a 9 inch circle.  
In the center, drizzle a couple tablespoons of maple syrup (if you don't have any, you can use regular store-bought syrup or brown sugar softened with a little water).  Add a handful of dried cranberries, raisins, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, slivered almonds, and/or dried cherries.  Here I used dried cranberries just because that's what I had on hand.  Slice one small apple thinly and lay the slices in a pinwheel like shown.  Lay your wheel of brie on top and carefully fold the pie crust over it toward the center of the brie.  
Flip onto a baking dish or cookie sheet so the seam side is down and the fruit is at the top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned and firm.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes and then serve with a slice removed 
so all the buttery goodness oozes out.  Yum!

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