Baked brie with apricot, pistachios and cranberries

Baked brie topped with apricot jam, pistachios and dried cranberries.

As we catapult headfirst into party season, we’re often faced with a dilemma. What am I going to serve or bring to the party?

I have the answer! Bake a wheel of brie. We all love easy, quick and inexpensive appetizers, and this one is always a huge hit. Whether the party is beer-keg casual or black-tie formal, it’s a proven fact — everybody loves cheese.

Baked brie is especially nice in the colder months when warm and gooey sounds particularly inviting. Rich and creamy brie makes a simple, yet elegant appetizer, and is so versatile because it pairs perfectly with sweet or savory toppings.

An 8-ounce wheel of brie costs around $5. Add a baguette or French bread (from the day-old rack if possible!), some crackers, slice an apple and you’ve got a sophisticated appetizer for four to six people for well under $10. This is so much better than a couple of bags of chips.

Baking brie couldn’t be easier. Simply place the b

rie on a piece of parchment paper and score the top of the brie with a paring knife. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until the cheese is soft and melted, then serve — ta-da! It’s delicious just like that.

Another option is to top the brie with something sweet or savory, then bake it to melted perfection.

Sweet ideas for toppings include any kind of jam, fruit compote, chutney, dried fruit, fresh berries, figs or even cranberry sauce. Savory topping ideas include caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, olive tapenade, bacon, roast peppers, herbs and sauteed mushrooms.

The creaminess of brie pairs beautifully with salty, crunchy nuts. Mix something sweet, something savory, something crunchy and you’ve got a delectable appetizer.

If preparing brie at home is new to you, here are answers to some common questions:

Is the white rind edible?

Absolutely yes! While some prefer to remove it, it’s not necessary. Scoring the top rind of the brie helps it to be easily scooped up with the melty inner cheese after it is baked.

Do you have to bake brie?

Nope. But it’s best to eat brie at room temperature or warmer to enjoy the full flavor.

Why does my brie smell funny?

Brie is a variety of cheese that has what is referred to as a “bloomy rind.” That ammonia-like essence is a natural byproduct of the cheese aging and ripening process. When the cheese is packaged for sale, the ammonia smell gets trapped by the plastic. So, remove the plastic and let your brie “breathe” for a half-hour before eating it.

BAKED BRIE WITH JAM AND NUTS

Makes: 4 servings Time: 15 minutes

  • 8 ounces brie
  • 2 tablespoons fruit jam
  • 2 tablespoons nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey, optional
  • Pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Put brie on a piece of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Use a small sharp knife to score the top of the rind in a crosshatch pattern.

2. Spoon the jam or fruit spread across the top of the brie and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly across the top, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with salt.

3. Bake, uncovered, for 13-15 minutes, or until soft and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly, serve with crackers, and enjoy.

In the photo, I used apricot jam and pistachios, with a few dried cranberries for a pop of color. Most any combination of jam and nuts will work.

So, the next time you’re in need of an appetizer, just say cheese!

Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

© 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.

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