Baked cheese is one of my favorite ways of serving semi-soft cheeses. The baking process enhances the cheese flavors and makes its texture even creamier. Served with fresh, or cooked fruits, (check HERE for a recipe with quince cooked in spiced red wine) the combination is even tastier.
In the following recipe, I took this combination a step further, and baked the cheese, along with cooked pears, “en croûte”, i.e. in a buttery puff pastry crust, and the result was simply irresistible. The creamy cheese paired beautifully with the buttery caramelized pears and walnuts, which were cooked with a bit of balsamic-pear vinegar, salt and four peppers mix. The tasty crispy buttery crust complemented all the encrusted flavors, and all that was needed was to quickly serve the dish while it’s still warm. Served as an appetizer, as a part of a cheese tray, or even as a first course, these tasty parcels will delight anyone who loves cheeses. Try it and enjoy.
* For best flavor and texture, make sure to use puff pastry made with butter.
* As with all puff pastry baking, it is crucial to keep it in the fridge until using, and to make sure the oven is hot before baking. If you don’t want to end up with limp pastries that didn’t puff up properly, don’t skip these steps.
* Balsamic-pear vinegar is a mix of wine vinegar, grape and pear must and caramel. It is less acidic and thicker than vinegar. It is available in gourmet stores or online.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
2 pears, ripe but firm (I used Bartlett)
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix
2 tsp Balsamic-pear vinegar (see notes)
¼ cup small chopped walnuts
14 oz (397 grams) pre-rolled butter puff pastry, fresh or thawed
7 oz (200 grams) Camembert cheese, not too ripened, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 Tbs water
1. Peel the pears, core and cut each into quarters, then into fairly thick segments. In a medium pan, mix the butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Place over medium-high heat and cook until the butter foams and the sugar dissolves. Mix and keep cooking until the sugar starts to caramelize. Mix again and add the pear segments, in one layer. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, flipping the pears once, to cook from both sides, until the pears soften, but still keep their shape. Add the balsamic vinegar and walnuts, increase the heat to medium-high and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 400F (205C). Line a sheet pan with baking paper.
3. Cut the puff pastry into 4 rectangles and place in the pan. Cut the cheese into quarters.
4. Divide the pear segments, along with the syrup and walnuts, between the pastry rectangles, and top with the cheese.
5. Gently fold the pastry around the cheese and pears, then turn the “parcel” upside-down, so that the seam is at the bottom. Make a small slit on top of each “parcel” and brush with the egg wash.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.