According to a popular foodie website, “Puff pastry is a light, flaky pastry made by repeatedly layering pastry dough and butter or another solid fat, called laminating, to form a thin dough that puffs in the oven.”
Puff pastry was invented about 1645 by a French pastry cook’s apprentice named Claudius Gele. At the end of his apprenticeship, Claudius wanted to bake a delicious loaf of bread for his sick father, who was prescribed a diet consisting only of water, flour and butter. Claudius prepared a dough, packing the butter into it, kneading the dough out on the table, folding it, and repeating the procedure ten times, after which he molded the dough into a loaf. Before you can say voilà, puff pastry was born!
I like to wrap a round of double or triple cream Brie cheese in puff pastry and serve it as an appetizer for friends and family. My savory appetizer recipe, below, pairs well with red or white wine. I’m guessing that Claudius would have served it with a French Beaujolais.
1 small Walla Walla sweet onion (minced)
½ pound Cremini mushrooms (chopped fine)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 sheet defrosted puff pastry rolled out to12-inches square
1 round of Brie cheese (about 5 inches in diameter)
1 large egg (mixed with ½ teaspoon of water for wash)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mince enough onion to measure 1/2 cup and finely chop the mushrooms. In a 9- to 10-inch heavy skillet cook onion in butter over medium heat until softened. Add mushrooms, Sherry, nutmeg, and salt to taste and sauté over medium-high heat until most of the liquid evaporates. Set aside to cool.
Cut Brie round in half (horizontally) so you have a bottom half and a top half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the sheet of pastry to approximately 12-inches square. Center bottom half of Brie, cut side up, in the middle of defrosted pastry and spread mushroom mixture on top of Brie. Cover mushroom mixture with remaining half of Brie, cut side down.
Without stretching pastry, wrap it snugly up over the round of Brie. Turn over so that the sealed side is on the bottom and place on baking sheet. Brush top of pastry with egg wash. With back of a sharp small knife gently score side of pastry with vertical marks, being careful not to cut through dough. Chill Brie, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Brie may be loosely covered and chilled for up to one day ahead of time.
Bake Brie in middle of oven until pastry is puffed and golden, about 20 – 25 minutes. Let stand in pan or transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers, crostini or fresh ¼-inch slices of your favorite sour dough French bread.