I love everything about Christmas. I especially love entertaining.
Every year, we host at least one Christmas party. Because we’re headed home to New Hampshire this year for the holidays—for the first time in 18 years—I’m only having one party. My local writer friends are coming over Saturday, and I can’t wait. (I wish the ladies of the Quid Pro Quills could get together for Christmas. We’re scattered all over the eastern half of the United States and in Canada, so that’s not going to happen anytime soon.)
Everyone is bringing something to the party, so I’ve decided to do some kind of cheese/cracker combo. But since I love to cook, it can’t just be a block of cheese and a box of crackers. I’ve narrowed the choices to two: Cheese Ring or Baked Brie. The cheese ring is festive if you make it with white cheddar cheese. The white cheese contrasts nicely with the strawberry preserves in the center. If I add parsley for green, it’ll be perfect.
However, the Baked Brie is more elegant and more suited to a Christmas party. And with a nice cookie cutter, I can add some stars on the top, so it, too, could be quite festive.
I’ll share the recipes, and you can help me decide.
1 pound sharp white cheddar, shredded
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, grated
Dash black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients except preserves. Place in a greased ring mold. (Use the mayo to grease the mold.) Chill. When you’re ready to serve it, unmold it on a pretty round platter and fill the center with the preserves. It’s an odd combination of flavors, but it’s delicious!
1 tbsp water
1 puff pastry sheet (dethawed)
½ cup apricot preserves or seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup almonds
1 (13-16 oz) Brie cheese round*
Heat oven to 400. Beat the egg and water.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the sheet into a 14-inch square. Spread the preserves on the pastry to within 2 inches of the edge. Sprinkle with the cranberries and almonds. Place cheese in the center of the pastry and fold the pastry up over the cheese to cover. Trim the excess (save to decorate) and press to seal. Brush the seam with the egg mixture. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet.
Cut the discarded pastry into whatever shapes you wish and place them on the top of the pastry. Brush with the egg mixture.
Bake 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand for 45 minutes. Serve with crackers.
*The recipe calls for a 13 oz brie, but I always use a smaller one—6 or 7 oz.—because otherwise, it’s too big. I roll the sheet into a 14-inch square, then I adjust the round nearer to one corner, so I have larger scraps to cut stars out of. I use the same amount of apricots and cranberries though, because they’re delicious.
So what do you think? Cheese Ring or Baked Brie?
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. She is the author of two books, Faith House and One Christmas Eve, both Christmas stories. Read excerpts and find out more at her website.