Monday 11 December 2017
Admittedly, this is not my original recipe, but more my variation of an idea I saw on Twisted Food. It's beautiful, delicious, fun to make and it's the perfect dish for your Christmas or holiday party. It's called a Camembert Snowflake. It's baked Camembert cheese in a ring of puff pastry resembling the shape of a snowflake. For that added Christmassy flare, the puff pastry is stuffed with cranberry sauce and there's a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and pistachios on top. The idea is you pull one of the arms of the snowflake and use it to dip in the warm, gooey cheese. It's sweet, salty, creamy, flaky and tart goodness. There's something about rosemary and cranberry sauce together that works so well. When you add the buttery pastry and gooey cheese to the flavour profile, you have all of your points covered for a well-rounded dish.
The holidays are a time for indulgences. This recipe certainly falls under that category. This is not one for the dieters. Then again, this isn't a meal either. It's the kind of finger food that's perfect for a group to share. It is sure to be a hit with the guests at your party or shared among family.
You're going to need about 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce for this recipe. You have 3 best options that depend entirely on your personality. The first option is the easiest, use store bought cranberry sauce. No fuss! The second option is to make your own basic cranberry sauce. It's one of the quickest and easiest recipes you can make. All you need is water, sugar and cranberries. Bring 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Add a standard 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries and cook until the skins burst and the cranberries lose their shape (about 5 minutes). Allow to cool before serving or refrigerating. The bonus in this step is that you get a higher quality product that tastes better. Finally, your third option is to go gourmet with it. Bring 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of brandy with 1 cup of sugar to a boil for about a minute after the sugar dissolves to burn off the alcohol. Add a standard 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries with the zest of a clementine (or of half an orange) and a 4" cinnamon stick snapped in half. Cook until the skins burst and the cranberries lose their shape (about 5 minutes). The bonus about this step is you get a higher quality product with phenomenal flavour. It should come as no surprise that the third option was used in this demo. The added bonus about the last two options is that you can reserve about a dozen of the fresh cranberries to decorate the snowflake with later. They are so beautiful and Christmassy that they turn your snowflake into a stunning dish. However, they'd just be for garnish. I don't recommend eating raw cranberries. They're acridly sour and not at all sweet in comparison. That could be a deal breaker for you. Many people don't believe in fussying up a dish with something inedible. Quite often I tend to be one of them. But I think they look so fantastic here.
2 sheets of puff pastry
1/2 cup of cranberry sauce
9 oz Camembert (whole)
1 egg, lightly beaten
A drizzle of olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp slivered pistachios
Preheat your oven to 350 F/177 C.
Firstly, if your sheet of puff pastry isn't about 12" x 12" you're going to want to roll it out with a rolling pin until you get roughly those dimensions. Lightly flour your work surface and the rolling pin first. Do your best to cut into an even circular shape, but don't worry about it too much. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry. Then line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay one of the sheets in the center.
Spread a thin, even layer of cranberry sauce around the pastry leaving a space in the center about the size and shape of the Camembert.
Cover with the second sheet of puff pastry, lining them up as even as you can. Then place the Camembert in the very center and cut around it with a knife. Discard the center piece you cut out.
Then you're left with this:
Then make four cuts into the pastry at the precise top, bottom, left and right points. Leave 1-2 centimeters around the cut out hole in the center intact. A pizza cutter works best.
Using the incisions as guides, make three more cuts evenly between each previous cut. This will create sixteen separate "tassels" running along the outside.
Starting with the two tassels at the very bottom, take each one between your thumb and index finger and twist them once in the opposite direction of each other and then once again for a total of two twists. Then repeat with the rest of the pairs of tassels.
The first twist looks something like this:
Followed by this:
Repeat until all 16 tassels are twisted.
Then pinch the ends of each pair of tassels together into a point. This will create eight arms in somewhat of a snowflake shape. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect.
Lightly beat an egg and evenly brush the exterior of the snowflake with it. This egg-wash will not only help to create a beautiful, golden colour but it will help the rosemary and pistachios to stick to the pastry.
Place the Camembert in the middle of the snowflake and score the top with a knife.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to the cheese. Then sprinkle the top of everything with fresh rosemary leaves and slivered pistachios. Take several of the rosemary leaves and insert them into the scored cuts in the cheese.
Place in your preheated oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up, turned golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Allow to cool for a few minutes but serve while still warm and gooey. Decorate with some fresh cranberries if you wish.
This is such a delightful recipe that everyone is sure to love. If you're not enthusiastic about the sweet and salty combo you could substitute basil pesto for the cranberry sauce and decorate with little cherry tomatoes. You could even add thin slices of garlic into the cuts in the cheese. That would be an Italian-inspired, completely savoury version that maintains the Christmassy red, green and white colour scheme.
Evidently you must give this a try. It's so rich and inviting. I especially love how twisting the pastry leave stripes of cranberry sauce that mimic the stripes of a candy cane. This truly is Christmas summed up in one great appetizer.
One last thing, could you use brie instead of Camembert? Of course! In fact, the only difference between the two are the regions of France from which they are made. The process is essentially the same.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everyone!