Sunday, October 20, 2013

Camembert and Walnut Bites – accentuate the positive...

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I want to love Camembert. It looks very charming on a cheeseboard, instantly adding ze strrrrong Frrrrrrench accent. And it is always up for a picnic – just add a fresh baguette and a bottle of vin - et voila! What’s not to love? Well...
Camembert is often described as buttery and nutty – I like that bit. But to me, there is a cabbage-y tang lurking in its depths. I’m not the greatest fan of cabbage at the best of times, so why would I want it in cheese... given I’m not even the greatest fan of cheese at the best of times and will easily find an excuse to skip straight to dessert.
However... as the song says, you’ve got to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive (add buttery pastry, a touch of honey, and some walnuts) ... e-li-min-ate the negative (heat and a smidgen of rosemary seems to minimise the cabbage-y note), et voila! This I can love.

For approximately 25 party-sized bites you will need...
... a 7cm empanada press (widely and generally quite cheaply available from most kitchen stores), or a little patience.

50g walnuts
125g Camembert, cut into rough chunks
½ teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
25g runny honey
500g good quality all-butter puff pastry 

a little cold water to seal the pastries 

a little beaten egg to glaze the pastries 

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C 

First, blitz the walnuts in a food processor until reduced to large crumbs. Add the camembert and rosemary and process until reduced to a moist crumbly mixture. Add the honey and blitz to combine with the other ingredients.

If you haven't got a food processor, you will need about 5 minutes and a good chopping action

Roll out the puff pastry (or buy ready-rolled) to a thickness of about 3mm. Using the cutter side of the empanada press, stamp out circles until you have used up all the pastry. (If you don’t have an empanada press, use a 7cm round scone cutter instead.)  

Using lightly floured hands, take approximately half a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball. (This might seem a stingy amount but - trust me - any more will leak from the pastries as they cook.) Repeat until you have the same amount of cheese balls as pastry circles.

Be stingy with the filling unless you want accidental camembert and walnut crisps 

Place a pastry circle on the empanada press and place a cheese ball in the centre. Dampen the edges of the pastry with a little cold water and close the empanada press, gently sealing the cheese inside a half moon. (If you are doing this without an empanada maker, fold the pastry over the cheese ball, pressing the dampened edges together, pinching them together between thumb and index finger.) Repeat until you have approximately 25 half moons made. Kids love helping with this bit.

(I often make them to this point then freeze in a single layer to cook at a later date, straight from the freezer. If cooking from frozen, you’ll need to give them an extra minute or two in the oven.) 

Place on a baking tray, approximately 3cm apart to allow them to puff up. Bake in the pre-heated oven until risen and golden – about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before handing round with drinks. Best served warm.

Variation: swap the honey for the same amount of apricot jam, or cranberry jelly. Both go terrifically well with Camembert. 

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  1. Noooooooo I haven't got an empanada press, and I NEED one NOW!

    Lovely lovely lovely

  2. Okay, I have no problem whatsoever with camembert and I could eat these until I exploded. or got distracted. :)

  3. Sounds like a great use of camembert. I hate the stuff, it is so pointless. No taste, texture, smell, only the French could big up something so pathetic.

    I like the nut, honey and cheese mix though. I've a spare bit of puff pastry in the fridge so I'll make a few of these I think.

  4. Wow how delicious! Definitely perfect with a glass of wine.

  5. Hester, I adore Camembert. So much, I had to marry a Frenchie, since it's so strong ;-)
    These look so delicious, it's tempting to throw a party, just to have an excuse to serve them!

  6. Camembert is one of the most common cheese in Japan yet but not so much here for some reason. I would love these bites! Great to pair up with walnuts and herbs!

  7. What a delicious treats. I love your ingredients - the walnuts, honey, and oh yes the wonderful rosemary. The empanada press is so convenient and useful. Thank you for another great recipe, Hester! :)

  8. I didn't know there was such a thing as an Empenada Press (gizmo kind of thing)! I have just about every kind of kitchen gizmo there is, but looks like I've gotta now go out and get one! Well done, Hester!

  9. I happen to love all kinds of cheese; this would make the purchase of an empanada press well worth it! (Plus it has rosemary in it -- what's not to love!)

  10. These bites are adorable and I love the combination of flavors! Simply divine :)

  11. I just brought camambert home and i guess i mised the puff pastry,
    tempting to give this recipe a try...
    instead of walnut, i'm using cashew because it's cheaper....


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