Brie en croûte with French Preserves

In culinary circles, the French term “en croûte” translates as “in a crust.”  It refers to any food wrapped in pastry and baked. I’ve used it here in reference to a wheel of brie baked for New Years Day. Modern recipes suggest using store-bought puff pastry, or phyllo dough. I’ve had it both ways, but lately I’ve been wrapping my brie in a savory homemade pie pastry.

Brie en croute on a cheese tray

Brie en croute on a cheese tray - New Years Day 2011

There’s something pleasing about serving food created by your own hands. I can’t make the brie myself, but I can certainly make the pastry. The real surprise of my brie en croûte was the preserves I put on top of the cheese – Mirabelle Plum Preserves from the Lorraine region of France.

Two years ago I toured the Lorraine and Champagne regions as part of a French WWI fact-finding mission. Besides drinking some GREAT champagne, I stayed at some very impressive hotels. One, Hostellerie du Chateau des Monthairons, beautifully situated on the banks of the Meuse River, looked like a bonafide castle. At the end of my stay, the owner graciously presented me with a jar of Mirabelle Plum Preserves made by her father.

Hostellerie du Chateau des Monthairons

Hostellerie du Chateau des Monthairons on the Meuse River

I’ve been saving this special treat for an occasion. New Years Day 2011 was it.

I unwrapped the brie and set it in the center of a 1/8 inch thick pie crust rolled out a little more than twice the width of the brie. I mounded the preserves in the center of the brie, and carefully folded up the pastry in small flutes overlapping on the top of the brie. I trimmed a bit of pastry as needed, and fussed some with the overall appearance, but there is no need to be fancy. The rustic look has an appeal, too.

I brushed the pastry with an egg wash, placed it in a pie plate slightly larger than the brie to prevent a mess if the crust had a blow-out, and baked it in a 375 oven for twenty minutes or so, until the pastry reached the color I wanted. The sooner this is cut into after baking, the runnier the brie will be. It is all a matter of your preference. I like it soft and sagging, not running, so I took it out of the oven 30 to 40 minutes before serving.

The mirabelles were as delicious as I remembered, their sweetness balancing the pungent cheese and the high fat content of the brie and the pastry. Taken as a whole, it was a real taste of Summer in the French countryside.

It was a memorable and delicious way to begin the New Year.



About richardfrisbie

I'm a professional baker, reader, bookseller, publisher, columnist, photographer, cook, hiker, kayaker, freelance writer, and workaholic who likes to garden
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