Be Sophisticated with Cheese – Baked Brie en Croute with Raspberry Jam

In my last post, I talked about one of my friend’s birthday dinners. Now, if there was one dish that I would remake from that dinner, it’d have to be the baked brie with raspberry jam. It was a very sophisticated, but extremely easy dish. We just spread raspberry jam on top of a wedge of brie, wrapped it up in a piece of puff pastry, baked it for about 15 minutes, and then topped it with toasted walnuts. Apparently the fancy name for this dish is baked brie en croute.

The most satisfying part was making the first cut into the brie. As I cut through the puff pastry, the melted cheese oozed out along with some raspberry jam. The brie was so creamy and went so well with the sweet, yet tart flavor of the jam. Add that to the buttery, rich puff pastry and you’ve got a heavenly appetizer.

If you want to impress people at a fancy dinner party, definitely make this dish. It only takes 20-30 minutes total, but it’s so elegant that people will think you spent much longer making it.

Baked Brie en Croute with Raspberry Jam
Created from my imagination (but basically the same as this recipe from Simply Recipes)

1 sheet puff pastry, rolled out
1 wedge of Brie cheese
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)
Raspberry jam (if you don’t like raspberry jam, you could swap this with any jam or jelly you like – fig jam would be a delicious alternative!)
Walnuts for toasting
Water crackers, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Place parchment paper onto a cookie sheet and then lay out puff pastry.
3. Place brie in center and slather with raspberry jam.
4. Wrap puff pastry over brie.
5. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
6. While brie is baking, toast walnuts in the oven until slightly browned.
7. Take brie out of the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes (or as long as you can resist!)
8. Top the brie with the toasted walnuts and serve with water crackers or slices of baguette.

This post has been Yeastspotted.

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Forgetting the Focaccia – Olive Rosemary Focaccia

My friends and I recently moved into a new house and in the whole process, we somehow inherited a big jar of green olives. I think olives are one of those foods that everyone has a different attitude towards. Some absolutely love them, some are indifferent, and some completely abhor them. Like my friend Rachel. One day, she asked her boyfriend to pick up a loaf of bread. She told him any kind of bread would be fine. However, when he showed up with a loaf of olive bread, she exclaimed, “Not olive bread!”

Now, I don’t mind olives, but I definitely do not like them enough to eat a big jar of them. I’ll eat a few on a slice of pizza or eat the olive that comes with my martini, but they’re a little too salty for me to eat regularly. So when I saw that big jar of olives, I knew I had to find a recipe that used olives. Remembering that story of olive bread, I looked up recipes for olive bread and found a few for olive rosemary focaccia.

Focaccia is actually a very simple and straightforward bread, similar to pizza dough (according to wikipedia). You just make a basic dough, add in whatever herbs (or food) you want, roll the dough out, spread olive oil over it,  and press your fingertips into the dough. Super easy, right?

Even though it was super simple, being the klutz that I am, I encountered a minor problem. While baking the bread, I was distracted and left the focaccia in the oven for a bit too long. Too long as in, burnt the bread and had the smoke alarm go off! Luckily I made two loaves and baked the other one perfectly.

I made this focaccia for a friend’s birthday dinner being hosted at my new house (which was why I had been so distracted while baking the focaccia). Another one of my friends had planned the whole menu, which included baked brie topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry, mushroom pasta, tuna stuffed bell peppers, and sauteed brussel sprouts with almonds. In addition to the focaccia, I contributed a quick, but fancy appetizer of figs drizzled with honey and topped with toasted walnuts.

Don’t those figs look so fancy?

Despite burning a loaf of focaccia (I had baked the first one and served it, but left the second one in the oven while I joined my friends for dinner – a very bad idea) and having the smoke alarm go off in the middle of dinner, my friend’s birthday dinner was a great success! The food was delicious and the company was great. We all make mistakes sometimes, some more than others (like me for example). But usually it all works out in the end. Besides, how else would you learn if you didn’t make mistakes?

The only real unfortunate thing about this bread was that it didn’t use nearly enough olives since I barely made a dent in my big jar sitting in the fridge. So, if anyone has any fun recipes that use a ton of olives, please let me know!

Olive Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Epicurious

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives, pitted, halved (I used green olives and sliced them)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

1. Dissolve sugar in warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Add the yeast to 3 1/2 cups flour and salt and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Add in the chopped olives and some of the rosemary.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes.
4. Form the dough into ball and place the dough into an oiled large bowl. Pour a little olive oil on top of the dough and evenly coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Punch down the dough, knead it into a ball and return it to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking sheet. Roll the dough out into a rectangle with your fingertips or a rolling pin. Let the dough rest 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over the dough and sprinkle the rest of the chopped rosemary on top. Let the dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.
8. Press your fingertips all over dough. (This was the funnest part! It made me feel like a kid again playing with playdough). Bake the bread  at 475F until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Drooling for Doughnuts – Doughnut Plant

When I first arrived in New York City, I headed straight for one place: Doughnut Plant. Having heard sooooo many amazing things about the doughnuts, I made Doughnut Plant the top place I had to visit in NYC. That says a lot about this place since I don’t even like doughnuts that much.

The scaffolding blocked the sign. 😦

Since I was closest to the 8th Ave and 23rd St location (the second location), I headed there. Once you enter Doughnut Plant, you’re transported into a world centered around doughnuts. There was doughnut art lining the walls, doughnut tiles engraved into the tables, and a giant tv screen displaying and flashing through all of the doughnuts offered. Talk about doughnut overload or doughnut lovers’ heaven.

They even have doughnut shaped chairs!

Since my brother raved on and on about the tres leche doughnut, I bought that right away. I had also heard about the Peanut Butter and Jelly glazed doughnut, which is a square doughnut covered with peanut butter glaze and filled with raspberry jelly. Both were good, not too sweet, which I appreciated. However, the tres leche was a bit better. Like many have said, Doughnut Plant’s cake doughnuts are better than their yeast doughnuts.

All of the doughnuts… yum!

Not knowing the next time I’d be back in NYC, I paid Doughnut Plant one last visit on my last day. For some reason that day, a regular old Monday morning, they had sold out of most of their doughnuts by 10am. So I only had the choice of the carrot cake and blackout doughnuts. I had wanted to try their creme brulee doughnut, which I’ve heard is amazing, but due to unforseen circumsatnces, I tried the carrot cake doughnut instead. It was actually very good. Not too sweet, which surprised me a bit. The frosting wasn’t as flavorful as I had hoped and I wanted a bit more filling in the doughnut. But overall, it was delicious.

I highly recommend Doughnut Plant if you’re ever in NYC, even if you’re not the biggest doughnut fan. You probably can’t find a shop with such a wide variety of flavors. This should definitely be one of the top places you visit, if not the very first. 🙂