We’ll allow ourselves a bit of extra indulgence this year. As we approach the end of 2020, it feels like it’s time to live it up while simultaneously appreciating life’s simple pleasures. For us, at least in terms of holiday appetizers, that means baked camembert. Add flaky bites of puffed pastry topped with tart-sweet cranberries and you have a special occasion hit.
For these key holiday indulgences, we turn to Kylie Mazon-Chambers, creator of the popular blog Cooking with Cocktail Rings. In her new cookbook Share + Savor: Create Impressive + Indulgent Appetizer Boards for Any Occasion, Kylie dissects the best elements of the ultimate appetizer collections. Her Winter Holiday board always includes these two necessary elements:
Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary
Camembert is a rich, soft, creamy French cheese with an earthy scent and a similar texture to Brie but with a stronger flavor. It lends well to baking since it stays somewhat contained within its rind. Its intense, slightly funky flavor complements the garlic, rosemary and maple syrup for an aromatic and enticing winter appetizer. This recipe takes only a few minutes to prep, but the garlic and rosemary can be added a few hours prior to baking. Camembert also stays melted for a longer period of time than a lot of other cheeses, making it a great option for entertaining. This hearty recipe fits well with the seasonal ingredients included in the Winter Holiday Board (below). This gooey, melted cheese contrasts nicely with the firm textures of the other cheeses on the board.
• 1 (9-oz/255-g) wheel Camembert cheese, in its wooden box
• 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
• 2 tsp (1 g) fresh rosemary leaves
• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) pure maple syrup
• Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)
• Bread and crackers, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove the Camembert from any plastic wrapping and place it back into the wooden box it came in or another similarly sized shallow baking dish. Use a small, sharp knife to score a crosshatch pattern across the top of the cheese wheel.
2. Using the knife to make small holes as necessary, carefully push the slices of garlic into the cheese, followed by the rosemary leaves. Drizzle the top with the olive oil and maple syrup. Bake until the cheese is gooey and melted, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt and serve on the Winter Holiday Board (below) or with bread and crackers. Serves 6.
Cranberry-Orange Brie Puff Pastry Bites
The zesty citrus in these bites works well with the tart-sweet flavors of the cranberry and contrasts with the buttery puff pastry layers and melted bloomy Brie. Cranberries are actually one of just a few fruits native to the United States. They are only in season during fall, specifically months ending in “er”, so I like to stockpile them. They last in the fridge for about a month and for about a year in the freezer. These buttery, flavorful bites fit well on the Winter Holiday Board (below) when combined with nutty cheeses and pungent baked Camembert. This element balances the board perfectly for a wide variety of flavor profiles.
• 1 tbsp (6 g) orange zest
• 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice (from about 4 large oranges)
• 3⁄4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
• 2 cups (200 g) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
• All-purpose flour, for dusting
• 1 (1-lb/455-g) package frozen puff pastry dough, thawed to room temperature
• 1 large egg
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) water
• 9 oz (255 g) Brie cheese, rind removed
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 teaspoons of the orange zest, the orange juice and sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and continue to cook until the cranberries have burst and the mixture has a jamlike consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove the jam from the heat and let cool completely.
2. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry into a 10 x 14–inch (25 x 36–cm) rectangle. Use a knife to cut the pastry into 20 equal squares. Repeat with the remaining sheet of puff pastry. Arrange the squares in a single layer on two parchment paper–lined baking sheets and place in the freezer.
3. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Remove the pastry squares from the freezer. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the squares of pastry dough with the egg wash. Cut the Brie into slices, then spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of the jam onto the center of each piece of puff pastry. Place a piece of Brie on top of each.
4. Bake until the puff pastry rises and turns golden brown, 15 minutes. Garnish with the remaining teaspoon of orange zest and serve warm or at room temperature on a cheese board or on their own. Makes 40 bites.
For more ideas on how to build the perfect cheese and charcuterie boards, check out Share + Savor: Create Impressive + Indulgent Appetizer Boards for Any Occasion (Page Street Publishing, 2020) by Kylie Mazon-Chambers.