Around this time each year I find myself suddenly energized.
The sun finally has warmth in it again after the long, lonely winter and I am eager for hot evenings on the lakeshore.
This winter was especially dark and lonely for us without the joyful gatherings we look forward to all year, but the spring brought a gift with it — the vaccine that will allow us to finally make those plans we have postponed for so long.
No matter the occasion, these first gatherings will be very special indeed, and celebration food is in order.
My favorite crowd-pleaser is baked brie because it can be made a million different ways, as simple or as fancy as you like. This recipe is a variation of my pastry school final dish — a brie and caramel apple voulevant, which is not nearly as complicated as it sounds but looks and tastes amazing and is sure to impress.
Brie and caramel apple voulevant
1 17-ounce box pastry sheets (Each box should include two stacks of sheets.)
1 half organic Granny Smith apple, any tart variety will do
1 12-ounce round of brie
2-4 ounces caramel sauce (You can make your own if you’re feeling fancy. Otherwise the stuff you get from the grocery store to put on ice cream works great.)
1. Start with thawed and refrigerated puff pastry. It is important that your puff pastry does not thaw at room temperature or too quickly or it will be too moist and will end up gummy. Overnight in the fridge is best.
2. Roll out one stack of sheets flat on your board and use your brie as a template to cut two circles of puff pastry big enough for an extra inch of dough around the outside of the cheese.
3. Cut the center out of one of them to make a ring of dough about an inch wide, reserve the center, and you’re ready to assemble.
4. Lay the solid circle of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put your whole brie in the center. Carefully slide the puff pastry ring down over the cheese and let it rest lightly — do not press down.
5. Make thin slices of a tart apple variety, using a mandolin if you have one, and arrange them artfully on top of the brie. A spiral looks lovely but feel free to be as creative as you want with the pattern.
6. Cover the apples with the reserved circle of pastry.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until your pastry is golden brown.
8. While the dish is still hot flip the top layer of pastry over. The apples should stick to the pastry. Drizzle caramel over the apples and serve immediately with apple slices.
This recipe can be adapted to satisfy every taste and occasion. Try topping with crispy bacon and fig jam or mixed berries and chocolate ganache. Any way you make it will be rich and decadent, perfect for sharing with a small group. Don’t forget the wine!