As promised, an impressive hor d’oeuvre for the next time you have 1:) to go to a party 2:)bring some kind of really tasty appetizer that everyone will devour and assume you spent hours making it. I was born running late and I am always under a time crunch, so this is my go to never-fail recipe.
Don’t be afraid of melting sugar on the stove top. Just pay attention and WATCH the pan and you will be fine. Yes. Its hot, but so is that pasta water, and we all make spaghetti don’t we? In this recipe, I love the sugary crunch of the caramel and the pecans contrasted with the creaminess of the brie. If you make this just before you serve it the cheese will warm and get just a little gooey and it will be even better. Its yummy even hours later, trust me and my fat hips on this one.
Carmelized brie ingredient list:
1small circular container (often how you find it at your grocery store) or wedge of brie cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup of pecans, depending on how in love with pecans you are
about 1/3 cup of white sugar
1 baguette, baked in the oven and crisped up nicely
You will need a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula that is heat proof, and a skillet that has a nice thick bottom but doesn’t weigh as much as the Titantic. You have to pick it up and pour hot melted sugar so skillet selection is fairly important. A hot pad if you don’t have an insulated skillet handle or hands as tough as mine, good luck with that…30 years of making art using hot stuff has some small rewards. Last but not least, a pretty heatproof plate to put your brie on. My ceramic dinner ware works fine but occaisonally I like to step it and use a prettier plate.
Unwrap the brie and put it on your plate, put the nuts on the brie and around it–whole ones look pretty but are a bit more problematic to eat buried in the candied caramel sugar, your call. Put the plate where its handy to the stove and out of the way for the moment.
Take your pre-measured sugar and pour it in the bottom of the skillet. You want your sugar to cover the pan bottom as much as possible and not be too thick or too thin. Too thick takes forever to melt and can get lumpy, too thin can melt too fast and scorch. Turn the heat to medium high. Gas stoves are fabulous and the process goes quickly. Electric stoves can seem to take forever, but be patient and keep a close eye on your skillet. Do not stir it as it is heating up.
By the way, you’ll figure out the exact right amount after you make it with your own pan the very first time. It’s only sugar and if it scorches the first time because you haven’t quite figured out the right amount of sugar, or figured out the heat on your stove, you can wash the pan out and start over. It’s not rocket science so relax and take your time.
So, the pan is on the stove on medium to medium high heat, a wooden spoon is in your hand with a death grip, and the sugar is heating. It’s still white and looks like nothing is happening and it feels like its been hours when its only about 3 minutes. Don’t stir the sugar when it is still all white and granular. You will make nasty lumps caused by the difference in the sugar crystals. The melted sugar underneath and the not melted on top parts don’t get along real well. If you do inadvertently make lumps you can carefully use your wooden spoon and try to mix them in and melt them, be careful and keep an eye on the color because the sugar will go cooked really fast at this point.
When you see melted patches that look almost clear keep a close eye out because your sugar is now going fast. If it is melting and getting a little tan, go ahead and move it around gently with the spoon. It will all melt suddenly and you should be stirring at that point.
Watch the color and turn off the heat when it gets caramel colored. It can burn very fast so be ready to get it off the stove and onto the brie.
Turn off the heat. Pick up the skillet and pour the hot sugar CAREFULLY on top of the prepared brie, use the spatula to scrape out of all the golden goodness. Move the skillet across the brie to make sure you spread the sugar out as much as possible. Since you have to pick up a skillet and basically pour boiling hot sugar out of it, it is important to choose a pan you can handle. This one is ugly as homemade sin and older than dirt but its the perfect size for the job.
The good news is that your incredibly sticky pan will be easy to clean–water dissolves the glued on sugar quickly.
Pull your warm bread out and slice it, then just stand back and let the munching begin. I love an Alsatian white wine with this, maybe a spicy Gewurtraminer or a sparkling Prosecco from Italy. Whatever I have stashed that is fruity and cold and crispy and not too sweet is great. Serve the brie plate with sliced apples and grapes on the side and you have a complete sexy first course.