camembert en croute
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I’ve had quite a lot of baked, fried or grilled cheese in my day. It’s a popular starter after all; some restaurants offer it as a main – which is actually what I did with the dish below.
I’ve had some standard baked Camemberts with or without chutney. I’ve had great Brie baked in filo pastry somewhere in France. There was the deep fried mozzarella; mozzarella in carozza or supli, little cheese balls – you wouldn’t have it every day but once in a while, so good.
Haloumi is pretty run of the mill in Greek or Turkish places but I ate gorgeous battered haloumi in a local posh chippie. Then there was baked provolone in a little dish in Spain, all on its own, and indeed not needing company. I’ve also had less fortunate cheese episodes: local Catalan cheese, grilled a good couple of hours before being offered to me: cold and greasy. Squeaky smoked sheep cheese in the Polish mountains, local specialty, that I wanted to enjoy so much but it was just TOO squeaky.
Cheese in foil, cheese in parchment, cheese in a stoneware dish, cheese in a bread loaf, in a squash and in a pumpkin, in filo or puff – but none of them a patch on this dish. It is so tasty, pastry made from scratch and all, that if you don’t try it once in your life, you won’t know you’ve lived. The ultimate FOMO – to miss out on this Camembert en croute is unforgivable.
- Makes four portions
- 125g (about 1 cup) plain flour
- 75g (½ cup) fine cornmeal
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 140g (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) cold butter, diced
- 35g (½ cup) grated mature Cheddar or Gruyere
- a few springs of thyme, leaves stripped
- 6 tbsp. iced water
- 2 x 150g (50z.) mini Camembert or similar amount of Brie, cold
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
To make the pastry, pulse the flours, salt, butter, cheese and half the thyme leaves in a food processor until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse until the pastry just comes together. Divide it in four pieces, shape each into a ball, wrap it in foil and flatten to a disc. Chill for 2 hours.
Halve each Camembert vertically with a sharp knife. If using Brie, halve it horizontally as well and then cut into pieces that can be put together to form a rough circle or a square; keep it cut side up.
Roll out each ball of pastry to a round about 18cm (7in) in diameter, dusting with flour if it sticks. Place them on a sheet of parchment lining a baking sheet and return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.
Place the cheese halves in the middle of each pastry crust or arrange the Brie pieces tightly in a round; rind side down, cut side up.
Fold the edge of the pastry over around the cheese forming an open parcel. Sprinkle the cheese with thyme. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes before serving. It goes very well with green salad, fig confit and grapes.