I had my first baked Camembert of the season on Saturday. A number of my friends came over to play board games so I spent the morning in the kitchen rustling up some things for us to snack on over the course of the afternoon and evening. The first of these was something I’ve been contemplating for a while. I wanted to make something perfect for sharing at Christmas that involved one of my favourite elements of this time of year; baked Camembert. Initially I had grand ideas of baking the cheese actually inside the middle of the bread, but on further thinking that was just stupid, and so the idea of the Camembert Christmas wreath was born, with the Camembert nestling at its center.
I made the bread ahead of time, baking it until it was completely ready, covered in a garlic & thyme egg wash to give some extra flavour to the bread and using the lid of a Camembert box to insure the ring kept its shape. When everyone arrived I stuck the cheese in the oven for 10 minutes and then transferred it to the center of the bread, in the base of the box, then stuck it all back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. This meant the bread was warm and the cheese gooey and ready for dipping. You could do whatever you wanted with the Camembert too, stick garlic in it, or other herbs. Do whatever you normally do with the stuff but surround it with soft, garlic-y and tearable bread.
The whole loaf is probably more than you’d need for the Camembert, but if you’re as into cheese as I am I am sure you’ll have the rest of a cheese board just waiting to be devoured. Christmas is the ideal time for this form of cheese consumption.
- **For the bread**4 cups cake flour
- 10 g instant yeast
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 400 ml tepid water
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Camembert
- **For the egg wash**
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp milk
- Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.
- With the normal paddle attached (or a spatula) slowly add the water, while mixing, until it comes together and comes away from the sides. At this point stop adding the water.
- Knead with the dough hook (or by hand on a floured surface) for 5 minutes, before adding in the remaining water and kneading for a further 5. If it's too wet at this point add in enough flour until it stops being too sticky.
- Turn out onto a floured surface, add the oil and knead for 10 minutes until you've got a soft smooth dough that isn't sticky.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, transfer the dough into it, cover and place in a draft free place until it has doubled in size, around 1 hour.
- In this time, line a large flat baking sheet with grease proof paper.
- Knock the dough back and shape it into a ring. To make sure the hole stays big enough for the camembert use the lid of the camembert (or one of those camembert sized ramekins) as a guide and leave it in place. Cover and leave to prove for about 30 minutes.
- While the bread is proving, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted).
- Prepare the egg wash by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl
- Once the dough is ready, use a pair of sharp kitchen scissors to cut slightly angled slices in all the way around. Do not go all the way to the center, leave around ⅓ to ½ of the dough intact.
- Cover the dough with the egg wash and place in the center of the pre-heated oven.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the bread cooked through.
- You can place the camembert in around 10 minutes into the cooking process or, like I did, you can bake the bread ahead and later that day bake the camembert for 10 minutes, add the already baked bread into the oven with the camembert part-baked at its center and bake for a further 10.
- Enjoy warm.