Impress your guests with a stunning yet simple appetizer of baked brie! Heat transforms the soft, ripened cheese into a spectacular gooey dip, that oozes out the second you slice it. If you’re into culinary theatrics, this is a fun and easy way to entertain even before the feast starts.
To add some festive holiday flavors to this appetizer, I’ve paired a homemade cranberry sauce and candied walnuts to add on top of the brie. You’ll be surprised how quickly these come together.
Plus, you can make both toppings a few days in advance. Just bake and assemble as the party gets going. This sweet, savory, and tart appetizer can be served with crunchy toasts or crackers. It will disappear fast!
The Cranberry Sauce
If you haven’t made cranberry sauce from scratch, now’s the time! This recipe yields about 1 cup. If you’re making this recipe for holiday dinner guests, you’ll still have plenty to use as a side dish for your turkey or ham.
Grab a bag of fresh cranberries and simmer them with water, brown sugar, chopped thyme, and rosemary. In just 15 minutes, the tart berries transform into a thick sauce. I love that some of the cranberries stay whole. It's a beautiful textural contrast to the sauce.
How to Make Candied Walnuts
Once you learn how to make candied nuts on the stovetop, it will become a staple in your kitchen! It’s just like making caramel sauce—melt butter and sugar together until the color turns golden and the mixture thickens into a glaze. The walnuts, cinnamon, and salt are added to the molten mixture.
The process takes under 5 minutes, so make sure to keep stirring to coat the walnuts with the caramel. It should smell fragrant but be careful to not burn it! The sauce should be amber, rather than dark brown in color.
Once you let the candied walnuts cool for 10 to 15 minutes, the caramel will harden and create a glossy shine on the surface of the walnuts. Chop some up for the brie and save the rest to serve on the side or to add on a delicious fall salad for extra crunch!
The Baked Brie
Brie is a delectable soft cow's milk cheese that has a rich and buttery flavor. What makes it unique is that the rind is edible, and when you cut through into the wheel, the gooey center spreads like softened butter. When heated it becomes runny.
I used a medium-sized wheel of brie (13.2 ounces) which allows for a 1/2-inch cube per serving topped with the cranberry sauce and nuts—I find this is plenty for a small slice of bread or cracker. However, you can find smaller 8-ounce (for about 16 servings) and larger 16-ounce wheels (for about 32 servings).
Bake the cheese on a piece of parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the sheet pan. After 20 minutes in a 350°F oven, the cheese encased in the rind will gently turn into a lava-like consistency. It should feel very soft when the top is lightly pressed, and the nutty, rich aroma of the cheese will permeate your kitchen.
Check the cheese after 15 minutes for smaller rounds and 25 minutes for larger ones.
Will the Brie Stay Melted?
For the most oozy consistency, enjoy the brie within 20 to 30 minutes of baking. Once the cheese is exposed to room temperature, it will stay warm, but it will start to firm up. Still delicious, but oh boy, melted cheese is incredible. Plus, it spreads much easier!
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
You can customize the flavors of the recipe to switch things up! Here are some delicious options:
- Instead of walnuts, pecans or almonds are delicious candied.
- Add some fresh orange juice to the cranberry sauce instead of water for a citrusy flavor.
- For convenience, you can use jarred or canned cranberry sauce. Mix it thoroughly to loosen so it doesn’t look like a glop out of a container.
- Swap camembert for brie if you like a stronger, earthy, and intense aged cheese.
- If you don’t have fresh herbs, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary or thyme. Lavender would also add a lovely floral aroma.
- The brown sugar in the cranberry sauce can be substituted with pure maple syrup, honey, or granulated sugar.
Serving the Baked Brie
Right after the cheese is removed from the oven, it will be like a wiggly jello inside. Use a spatula to carefully transfer it to a serving platter, then don’t move it around! I like to place it on a small piece of parchment paper to make it easier to rearrange.
Add a few tablespoons of the cranberry sauce and some of the chopped candied walnuts on top. I like to add chopped pistachios for a bright pop of green. Serve it with crisp crostini, slices of fresh baguette, salty crackers, and some fruit like grapes or sliced pears.
If you happen to have any leftovers, the brie can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. The candied walnuts can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for three days.
To reheat: Warm the brie in the microwave in 5 to 10 second intervals until melted.
More Brie-zy Appetizers
Cranberry Walnut Baked Brie
For the cranberry sauce
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
For the candied walnuts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
For the baked brie
1 (13.2-ounce) wheel of brie
2 tablespoons shelled roasted pistachios, salted, roughly chopped
Crackers, sliced bread, or crostini, for serving
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios (optional)
Preheat the oven and prepare the sheet pan:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside. You will use it later for the candied nuts.
Simmer the cranberry sauce:
In a medium saucepan or pot over medium-high heat, add the cranberries, brown sugar, water, rosemary, and thyme.
Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until cranberries pop and mixture has thickened slightly.
Stir occasionally, every 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more brown sugar, if desired. The sauce should be tart with a hint of sweet. Set it aside to cool while you prepare the candied nuts.
Caramelize the walnuts:
In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar. Stir with a rubber spatula to combine and cook until the sugar begins to dissolve. Add the salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir to combine.
Quickly add the walnuts and stir to coat them in the sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar smells fragrant like caramel, becomes amber in color, and glazes the nuts, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat if any smoking or charring on the nuts occur.
Cool the walnuts:
Transfer the walnuts onto the prepared sheet pan and spread them in a single layer. Allow them to cool until the surface of the nuts are hardened with the candy coating, 10 to 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, break the nuts apart since they will be lumped together. This will make a large batch.
Transfer half of the candied walnuts onto a cutting board and roughly chop them. Reserve the rest in a small bowl to be served on the side.
Bake the brie:
Line the same sheet pan with a new sheet of parchment paper. Place the brie on it. Bake it until the cheese is very soft and feels melted in the center when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. (An 8-ounce wheel will bake for 15 minutes. A 16-ounce wheel will bake for 25 minutes.)
Assemble the baked brie:
Use a spatula to carefully transfer the brie to a serving platter. Top it with about 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, some chopped candied walnuts, and pistachios.
The extra sauce and candied walnuts can be served on the side. Serve it warm with crackers, bread, or crostini.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||33%|
|Total Carbohydrate 17g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 13g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||21%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|