This is one of the most requested items come fall. Back when Martha was doing her baked Brie en Croute in puff pastry, I was immediately revolted by the all the fat oozing off the plate. The fat content of the melted cheese was enough for me but add the buttered rich puff pastry and instant gag. Then there was always the issue that in order to get the cheese to melt then the pastry would burn. If the pastry looked good then the cheese was tepid at best. In those days bread bowls for soup was consider genius and somehow they became one for me. So here it is….
BERWINDS BAKED BRIE
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Yield: The 2lb. brie can feed a crowd of 25-35 as part of a hors d’ouevre table.
2 lb. Coal, Tuscan, Peasant or other round crusty bread, unsliced. Must measure at least 10” in diameter.
2 lb. Brie
1 to 1 ½ cups chopped toasted Pecans
1 – 1 ½ cups dried Cranberries
1 1 ½ cups dried Cherries
1 ½ - 2 cups Light Brown Sugar
4 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. grated Nutmeg
1 tsp. ground Tonka Bean or Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla (a Nielsen Massey product)
French Bread cut up or Crackers (or both!)
• Cut a circle into your bread large enough to fit the brie. Remove interior of bread from both the lid and the “bowl”. (Save this bread to either make croutons or bread crumbs either drying it out for dried breadcrumbs or grinding it and reserving in an airtight container in the freezer.)
• Remove the paper off the brie saving the wrapping for later in this step, and place onto a cutting board. Insert a serrated knife halfway beneath the top of the brie. With your other hand placed on top of the brie, gently move your knife in a circular way to remove the top rind off the cheese. Place this top onto the reserved paper.
• Now I use my hands for most of this and don’t think amounts matter so very much…as long as there is PLENTY of “stuff” used….so… Place a handful of brown sugar on bottom of hollowed out bread. Top with a scattering of dried cranberries, dried cherries, pecans, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg.
• Place Brie on top of this and repeat above.
• Place lid of brie on top of this and repeat once more, using up all ingredients.
• Place bread lid on top, gently pressing down.
• Wrap the bread in two thicknesses of aluminum foil. I use the extra long, extra heavy 18” width Reynolds Foil
The Brie can be frozen at this point or stored in the frig for a day or two. If you freeze it remove from freezer 2 days before baking and let defrost in the frig.
Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour and a half and up to two hours. I know this sounds very long but it really does take that long for it to melt all the way through. You can test this by opening the foil and removing the lid, insert a thin knife directly through the center and leave there for a moment. Withdraw the knife and check the blade temperature. If noticeably warm, you are done. If not, return the lid to the bread, rewrap and back into the oven for another bit.
Have a platter or board large enough to fit your brie ready. Cut up some French bread and open up some good crackers. Carefully remove foil and with protected hands transfer the hot bread to the platter. Take the lid and cut it up into bite size pieces. I place these directly on top of the bread. Scatter the crackers, etc around the platter and serve. I’d also apply some lipstick here as everyone will be looking at you as you bring this out!
1- You may want to increase, decrease quantities of anything. Substituting nuts and fruits-all good.
2- Smaller bries and smaller breads are available. The cooking time will be between an hour fifteen and an hour and a half.
3- Breadcrumbs. Fresh breadcrumbs, toasted, can elevate a simple oil and garlic preparation of pasta and are considered a must have ingredient here. As far as dried breadcrumbs, there is no good reason to ever buy them. Make your own, they take an extra couple of minutes and taste so much better due to the variety of breads that will go into them. Worth the minimal extra time involved.
4- Tonka Beans are available at Caribbean grocery stores and the Neilson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla can be had at www.Amazon.com in the Grocery & Gourmet section.
November 2011 NOTE:
I had a comment recently that the cooking time I have listed is too long. The cooking time is based on 2pound brie, bread that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has been previously frozen. If you are making this same size without freezing it cooking time would be about an hour and if you are making this with smaller brie then even less time. As with all of cooking, a little common sense needs to come into play and that includes checking on your items in the oven. Please keep those comments coming!