In case you haven’t noticed the holidays are coming and with them the conundrums of what to make for those holiday parties. Last year I created a recipe for a fabulous crab dip that was a hit all season long. The only challenge with making that appetizer was the cost, $11 for a can of crab claw meat and that was the least expensive one I could find.
This year I wanted to make something different. I decided to venture into the realm of puff pastry as I’ve had some successes with it in the past, specifically making a salmon en croute. In researching various recipe options I came upon several recipes for combining brie cheese with cranberry sauce and puff pastry. That sounded divine. So I went about borrowing dribs and drabs of various recipes to create my own puff pastry appetizer. Here’s my rating and lessons learned:
Recipe rating: B+ with the potential to be an A+: I had never made anything like this before and I learned some valuable lessons while making it. This is a great appetizer but with some specific caveats you should follow in order to make them the best they can possibly be.
Lesson Learned 1 – You only need a small amount of brie: Having never made these before I was unsure as to how much brie to put into each puff pastry shell. I used the small side of a melon baller to portion out the brie. Next time I will use half that amount. The first batch I made the brie ran over the sides of the puff pastry and not much was left inside. The second batch I made I used a little less (I could have even used less) and the outcome was much better. (I found a wheel of brie at Costco for a little over $7.00. I had more than enough for the appetizers with plenty left over.) You want to make sure that the brie and cranberry sauce meld together and not just have cranberry sauce with a hint of brie, which was what I had. Anyway, a valuable lesson learned for the next time I make them.
The same applies to the cranberry sauce as well. Use only a small amount as you don’t want it to overpower the brie. Err on the side of less is more, especially since the pastry puffs up so much in the oven.
Lesson Learned 2 – Getting the desired result when baking puff pastry: In my mind there are two tried and true rules for successfully making puff pastry – one, a very hot oven and two, applying an egg wash. Most of the recipes I read said to bake these bites at 375 for 15 minutes. I should know better. The puff pastry was nowhere near done by that time. When I make my salmon on croute I bake it at 400 for 20 minutes and the puff pastry comes out perfectly. Why should this be any different. Needless to say at 15 minutes the puff pastry was nowhere near browned and I wound up having to keep them in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Next time I will bake these at 400 and check them at 15 minutes. Lesson learned – follow my instincts and not necessarily what is suggested in any given recipe.
The recipe is made in a mini muffin pan. I found that cutting the puff pastry in thirds and then into twelve equal squares still gave me a little too much puff pastry per appetizer. I wound up cutting off about 1/8 inch off the sides so that the squares would not abut each other in the pan. You could probably fold the pastry more in the muffin cup to prevent this as well. I try to work with the pastry as little as possible so as not to get it too warm. You may have to play with this a little until you figure out what works for you.
Also no recipe I researched said anything about using an egg wash to enhance the browning of the puff pastry. To me this is elementary but you cannot assume that everyone knows this. An egg wash on puff pastry or pie dough gives the dough a gorgeous color that it cannot get on its own within the baking time allotted. So always brush on an egg wash when using puff pastry to get a nice golden brown color.
Lesson Learned 3 – Make your own homemade cranberry sauce: To me, making your own cranberry sauce is like making your own apple sauce – store bought simply can never compare. And it is so easy to make. If you don’t have your own recipe – just click on “cranberry sauce” and you can make my recipe. It is so easy and so flavorful. You’ll never buy canned again. Plus you will have some delightful left overs to serve as a side dish or even as a spread on sandwiches. Divine!
Lesson Learned 4 – Serve them warm: I read many different versions of this type of recipe and many of them said in the comments that you can serve these warm or cold. I made these and then brought them to a party by which time they were no longer warm. I can guarantee you that although they tasted ok they were divine when they were warm. So if you’re looking for a cold appetizer to bring to a holiday gathering, bring my crab dip and not this one. But if you have the ability to serve a warm appetizer, this is the one. I cannot attest to how these would reheat in a microwave. I’m thinking that a microwave and puff pastry just don’t mix. If you have any tips regarding that, please feel free to comment. But trust me, these are much much better served warm.
I am definitely trying this recipe again. Even with the few slip ups I had the taste was fabulous. It seems you just can’t go wrong when puff pastry is involved. Try this one and let me know what you think!
Cranberry Brie Puff Pastry Bites…
1 package frozen puff pastry
1/2 pound brie (maybe even a little less)
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
Splash of water
Let puff pastry sheets thaw for at least 2-3 hours in the refrigerator or overnight. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the puff pastry along the folded lines. Cut each strip into four equal size squares. Using a mini muffin pan, press the puff pastry into each muffin cavity.
Put a small amount of brie in the cavity and top it with a small amount of cranberry sauce. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until the puff pastry turns gold brown.
Remove from muffin pan and let cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving.