Hosting my in-laws last week provided me the excuse to do some cooking, that is, beyond what my kids and meat-and-potatoes husband usually require in our daily grind.  It also provided me a beautiful excuse to indulge a little at the grocery store (yippee skippy bo-dippy!)  OK, I know most women don’t think of groceries when there’s an opportunity to splurge but given the chance, I’ll take an organic grocer and German butcher over a mani and pedi any day.

I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with the wheel of camembert when I bought it but it looked so pretty sitting next to the bottle of sauvignon blanc in the cart that it just had to come home with me.  Planning for a later supper, I went about preparing a little crudités and a cheese tray and remembered the camembert!

I’d since planned on baking the camembert with puff pastry and raspberries but since the puff pastry went missing (to where???) and my mother-in-law is allergic to raspberries, that plan fell through.  I started mulling through the pantry and fridge and came up with a ready-made pie pastry, a jar of apricot preserves and some glazed pecans.  I trimmed the rind off the cheese and set it in the center of the pastry, topped it with the preserves and then the pecans (roughly chopped).  I folded the pastry into a cute little bundle and popped it the oven.

Thank God I baked it in a little casserole dish because my cute little package turned into a hot golden brown mess.  It completely lost its shape and filled the square dish.  Not one to let good cheese and pecans go to waste, I set it on the table with authority and a sleeve of whole grain crackers with an air of “yes, this is what the hell this is supposed to look like!”

It. Was. Amazing.  We ditched the crackers, pulled out some spoons and literally ate from the dish like a gaggle of cave dwellers.  The cheese was warm and silky with the slightest bite and paired perfectly with the sweet, bright tang of the apricots.  The crunch and texture of the pecans stood up to the creamy, sweet filling and the buttery pastry held it all together without competing with the texture of the pecans. Could there be any better culinary experience than getting sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy in your mouth at one time?!

All of our company left this weekend and I was left with an assortment of cheeses and various other odds and ends from a week of entertaining so I decided to do some experimenting last night.  I found a Southern Living recipe for a variety of cheeses and fruit that boasted pie pastry and decided to play around with it a bit.  I came up with several combinations but the following were my favorite (I totally stole this pic from the Southern Living website… it appears the data port for my camera took off with the puff pastry).

Pastry Rounds with Assorted Cheese

Using a juice glass or biscuit cutter, cut rounds from a ready-made pit pastry (that’s been rolled to increase its size by half).

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the dough cut-outs about ½ inch apart.  Cook for 5 minutes at 375 degrees (or until just before browning).  You can make these flat or press into the bottom of a muffin tin to create a slight edge.  I tried it both ways and thought the flat rounds were just fine.

Assemble the following combinations on the pastry rounds and continue to cook an additional 5 minutes or until pastry is light brown.

  • Blue Cheese, Walnut & Honey – drizzle with a fair amount of honey after baking
  • Brie, Raspberry Preserves and Slivered Almonds
  • Gruyère, Fresh Fig Halves & a few coarse grains of Sea Salt
  • Camembert, Apricot Preserves and Glazed Pecans
  • Goat Cheese, Peach Chutney & Smokehouse Almond
  • Gorgonzola , Baked Pancetta & Pear Slice
  • Mozzarella, Grape Tomato (halved), Fresh Basil – drizzle olive oil after baking
  • Sliced Strawberries, Nutella & Chopped Hazelnuts
Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."