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.
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.
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.