Brie en croûte is a wonderfully simple and decadently delicious appetizer or cheese board addition that is sure to please any cheese lover. It's simple to prepare, adaptable and perfectly gooey and tasty. It's sure to be devoured in no time.
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I don't know about anyone else, but I like to have a few dishes up my sleeve that work well for entertaining. Things that can be at least partly prepared ahead and are pretty easy are always things I look for. Plus being tasty, of course, too.
In terms of appetizers, some other great options I have already shared include sausage rolls, prosciutto wrapped dates and crab phyllo cups. But this delicious cheese is another one you'll definitely want to add to the list that's sure to be popular.
What does en croûte mean?
"En croûte" (often written as en croute in English) translates as "in a crust". Typically, this means in a pastry crust, and in many cases that is puff pastry as you use here. That's also true for things like salmon en croûte, though other dishes like paté en croûte use a shortcrust pastry.
The reasons for using pastry can vary - with the paté, it evolved from a purely practical need to help protect the paté as it was transported to the market. With dishes like salmon, the pastry helps to lock in moisture. But with both that and in this cheese dish, the pastry adds a nice contrasting crispness to the soft inside. Plus, it helps it look pretty special.
What's the difference between brie en croûte and baked brie?
Both brie en croute and baked brie involve baking a whole brie in the oven until the cheese becomes extra gooey. However baked brie does not have pastry on the outside.
For both, you typically add some additional ingredients like jam, honey, dried fruit or nuts on top of the cheese. These help add flavor and texture in each bite as you dive in. When baked with pastry, you typically add these additions on top of the cheese and under the pastry, as I have here, so they're a hidden extra treat.
Choosing your cheese
Brie is pretty widely available these days but you want to look for a couple things when picking one for this. Firstly, choose a whole brie wheel rather than a wedge. The reason for this is you want the rind all the way round the outside to hold the cheese in as it bakes.
Secondly, ideally choose a cheese marked "créme triple" or triple cream. This means it has a higher milk fat content so will give you a better gooey, melty texture. If you can't find triple cream, then double cream is your next best option.
While camembert is similar to brie, the flavor is that bit stronger and it's not quite as melty. So while you can cook with it, for this dish brie is definitely the better choice.
Cheese topping options
Gooey cheese wrapped in pastry is pretty great, but it's even better with a little burst of extra flavor inside. Savory options like a mix of olives, artichokes and nuts, for example, can be good, but personally I think the more common sweeter toppings work best.
There are lots of possibilities, but I think bolder flavors with a little tart and/or savory alongside the sweet are good. Ideas include:
- Jam - jams or jellies like raspberry jam, redcurrant jelly, fig jam, apricot jam and blackberry jam all work well. You could also use some cranberry sauce or a fruit compote, for example spiced apple.
- Other sweeteners - honey, maple syrup or brown sugar can all be good if you are not using jam to combine with some of the other ingredients below. Hot honey can also work to add that bit of spice.
- Dried fruit - dried cranberries, cherries, apricots and figs can all be good. I'd suggest chopping them so the pieces are relatively small and so work better as you take chunks from the baked cheese.
- Nuts - pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and/or pistachios would all be good. Again, I'd recommend chopped to distribute better.
- Herbs - a small amount of chopped fresh herbs can add to the flavor mix, like a little thyme or rosemary.
Here I have gone with honey, dried cherries and pistachios which are both delicious and feel a little festive. I also like the mix of textures they mix of fruit and nuts gives. But it can be fun to play around with different combinations, or keep it really simple with just some jam.
This is an easy dish to prepare, but a couple of things to note:
- Make sure you defrost the pastry before using it, if you are using frozen puff pastry (which definitely makes things easier!). Gently roll the pastry before adding the cheese to flatten any folds.
- Don't remove the rind! The cheese rind helps stop the cheese oozing all over, plus it's both edible and tasty, so enjoy it too. It can help to score the top a little to help steam escape, but it's fine if you forget.
- Line the baking sheet/tray - while hopefully your cheese won't escape, just in case, you want to be prepared. Using a lined baking sheet also helps you transfer the cooked pastry to a serving dish or board more easily without the pastry breaking.
- Seal the pastry well - don't lose the cheese! You can use whatever you feel works best for you, like twisting or tying the corners, or using a little egg wash to help the pastry stick to itself. Just try not to leave gaps, especially around the sides (on top is less of an issue).
- Brush with eggwash. This helps the pastry to go a lovely golden brown color which makes for a much prettier presentation.
The only final thing to note is to let the cheese sit for a couple minutes before diving in, just to save it being overly runny and pouring out.
What to serve with brie en croûte
One of the lovely things about the crisp pastry crust is that it gives something to help scoop up the cheese. But there's definitely more cheese than the pastry works with, I think, so some extra scooping food is generally a good idea! Small slices of bread, crackers (both plain and more artisan-style), and slices of apple all work well here.
Brie en croûte is a simple and delicious way to make an already tasty brie cheese round and turn it into a centerpiece-worthy appetizer or cheeseboard star. It has a wonderful mix of textures and flavors, as well as oozing cheesy goodness that's hard to resist. An entertaining winner, for sure!
Try these other ideas great for an appetizer board:
- Turkish stuffed grape leaves (yalancı dolma)
- Gougères (French cheese puffs)
- Gravlax (cured salmon)
- Savory palmiers
- Haggis sausage rolls
- Plus get more appetizer recipe ideas in the archives.
Brie en croûte
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 1 round brie approximately 6 - 7in (15-18cm) round
- 2 tablespoon honey
- ⅓ cup dried cherries
- ¼ cup pistachios lightly salted or unsalted
- 1 egg for egg wash - will not need all
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking sheet/tray with parchment.
- Open up the sheet of puff pastry and smooth out any folds. If needed, roll out slightly so that it will be large enough to wrap around the brie.
- Place the brie in the middle of the pastry and lightly score the top crust of the cheese. Spread roughly half, or a little more, of the honey over the top of the cheese to form a layer on top.
- Roughly chop the cherries and the pistachios and mix them together. Stack the mixture on top of the honey-topped brie - it may well be a bit full, but it tends to compact a little as it cooks so try to fit it all on. Drizzle the rest of the honey over the top which helps it hold together a little.
- Fold in the pastry around the brie and the toppings and seal it over the top. Try your best to fold relatively evenly so you neither have gaps (particularly around the sides) nor areas that are very thick.
- Lightly beat the egg and use some to help seal the pastry together, getting under folds. Stretch pastry as needed to help seal. Transfer the wrapped cheese to the lined baking sheet then brush all over with egg wash.
- Bake the cheese in the oven for approximately 20 - 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and slightly puffed up all over. Allow to cool for a good 5 - 10 minutes before cutting so the cheese is hopefully a little less liquid, but bear in mind it will run so place on something that will catch the drips. Serve with crackers and apple slices.
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