Camembert en croute, soft cheese half-wrapped in homemade melting short pastry, baked with a sprinkling of thyme leaves - that's the ultimate in baked cheese.
Who doesn't love baked cheese?
Very weird people, that's who. I can't resist a melty, warm mass of cheese, preferably accompanied by some naughty carbs. Yes, a toasted cheese sandwich is simple bliss.
I’ve had quite a lot of baked, fried or grilled cheese when eating out too. It’s a popular starter after all; some restaurants offer it as a main – which is actually what I did with the dish below.
Brie, mozzarella or halloumi?
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.
Halloumi is pretty run of the mill in Greek or Turkish places but I ate gorgeous battered halloumi 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.
Wrap your cheese in pastry
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.
How to make shortcrust pastry?
It is really easy, just takes a little time. Shortcrust pastry is basically butter rubbed into flour, gelled with a little egg, milk, or water. The pastry below is eggless, brought together with only icy water but enriched with - what else? - some grated cheese.
I strongly advise to make double the amount and keep half in your freezer for another feast.
How to prepare Camembert for baking?
Once the pastry has chilled and warmed up a little again (the chilling develops gluten binds in the pastry, the warming up again is so your can manage to roll it out), simply roll out circles larger than the Camembert wheels. Cut the cheese in two across, horizontally, so you get two discs out of each wheel.
Nest it on the pastry, cut side up, and wrap the overhanging pastry around the cheese. Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with thyme leaves before placing it in the oven and within minutes you'll be able to impatiently inhale the divine baking fragrance...