I can’t turn down pumpkin-themed holiday foods, regardless of their actual pumpkin content. Anything goes — pumpkin desserts, pumpkin beers, and even things that are just pumpkin-shaped count. That’s precisely why I was drawn to making this adorable, pumpkin-shaped baked brie from Taste of Home, which also happened to be delicious.
Baked brie is a holiday appetiser favourite. An entire wheel of brie cheese is wrapped in puff pastry and baked until puffed and golden. (You can also bake several wheels in a big ol’ pan.) It’s usually accompanied by a complementary layer of sweet jam and crunchy nuts. The result is a liquid cheese bomb bound to a layer of buttery pastry. The pumpkin preparation appealed to my festive holiday-food reptilian brain, so I couldn’t resist.
After wrapping the cheese in pastry, you’ll wrap kitchen twine around the entire thing, in regular intervals, and leave the twine on during baking. The pastry expands while the string restricts the expansion in thin bands. When the twine is removed, the shape resembles our favourite autumnal squash. The clever wrapping technique is what I love the most, but it could bear some improvement. Use the method below to avoid the hiccups I ran into with the original.
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Cut five pieces of butcher’s string, each one 15- to 18-inches long, and butter them. It’s an unconventional step, but trust me, you want to grease them. I didn’t in my test and I had a hell of a time removing the string at the end. In the centre of a parchment paper-lined sheet tray, lay out the strings in an asterisk-like pattern. The strings should all cross in the centre. Start with an X-shape and lay the next three pieces across so they’re all evenly spaced.
Lay a sheet of thawed, but chilled puff pastry over the strings. You’ll be able to see the impression of the strings underneath. Put a few tablespoons of jam, or nuts, or any fun combination of goodies you like on the puff pastry, right in the centre. Place the wheel of brie on top. I used pumpkin spread, chopped walnuts, and a 250 g wheel of truffle brie.
Wrap the puff pastry up and around the brie snugly, without stretching the dough. If at any point the pastry gets too soft, pop the whole sheet tray in the freezer for four or five minutes to firm it right up. Cut off excess pastry rather than building up a knot of dough. (Save the scraps of puff for these recipes!) Pinch any seams closed.
Tie opposite ends of the strings together. If you get confused over which string ends are attached, give them a gentle tug to see. Tie the pieces, in evenly spaced intervals so they hug the pastry firmly, but not so tightly that they cut into it. Use the parchment paper to help you flip the entire brie over so the knots are on the bottom. Brush the pastry with a touch of egg wash and pop it into a 200°C oven for 25 minutes or so, until fully puffed and golden even on the spots that don’t have egg wash.
While the pumpkin-shaped cheese is still hot, cut the strings with a sharp knife and slide the strings out from under the pastry. The string might stick to some spots, but the butter you greased it with should keep it from clinging too much. Try to be gentle.
Make a little stem out of anything stick-shaped and poke it into the top. I used a cinnamon stick with sage, but you can use a pretzel stick, veggie straw, celery stick, or breadstick. Regardless of your flavour combinations, your pumpkin brie is sure to be a star appetiser. Serve while hot.
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