If you follow wines this is also true, but that is a story for another day so I won't go there. The outside crust is indeed an edible mold which acts to preserve the cheese for a longer period of time. The cheese can be made with whole milk or low fat milk and there are even some heavy cream versions with 40% butterfat….very rich. French Brie is typically sold in the whole wheel fashion and weighs about a kilo or 2.2 pounds. This is an ideal size for entertaining, as the whole cheese can be wrapped in a puff pastry or a bread dough and baked for a pretty presentation.
There are loads of things that can be used for a filling for your baked brie recipe, and you can also try your hand at three dimensional food art while you are at it. For your fillings you can choose an assortment of savory or sweets. On the savory side of the ledger; sauteed leeks and mushrooms are fun combination's, you can also use light tasting sea foods like shrimp or lobster and tomato in a sort of "Provencal" style. On the sweet side; all kinds of jams, jellies and fruit will fill the bill for your filling desires.
The outside coating can be bread dough, like a brioche style with lots of butter or you can use puff pastry as an easier route in both cases you will want to use something which will rise quickly and turn a nice golden brown in a short period of time. When I have the time I prefer to use the Brioche style dough as it is more elastic.
To make a the dough you would use:
1 package of yeast (dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water)
3 T Honey
1 C Scalded Milk
1 t Salt
3-4 C White Flour
You can also add marzipan (Almond Paste) to the mix for a light almond flavor, a couple ounces softened in a little water will blend right into the dough. Add the honey, milk and salt to the yeast in a bowl and then add the flour a cup at a time until you can no longer stir it. Then turn it out into the last cup which you spread on your bread board. Knead it, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. As you knead it, the dough will get silky smooth in your hands, you will know when to stop (Hint fold it over on itself at least 50 times)
OR If you think that that is too much work. You can go to the store or your local bakery and pick up a couple of sheets of puff pastry. I won't discuss making puff pastry, that is major work and after my second attempt years ago I found it much easier to buy. Take the Brie and carefully cut it in half the long way so that you have two circles I use a French knife with a 10" blade. Stand the Brie on it's edge and get the cut started. Then when you are about a quarter of the way through lay it back down and use a rocking motion to slice a little into each edge (front and back). If you are careful you will have two equal and even pieces when you finish. See the gallery below for a visual of the process.
With it now open you can add your favorite filling. It doesn't take very much just a thin layer of jam, red pepper infused honey, or caramelized apples will work. Spread one side and the cover it with the other. Now the fun begins. Get a couple of eggs and add them to a half cup of water in a bowl and mix them up thoroughly. This is the wash or coating that will enhance the color of your finished brie. Now take the pastry sheet and cut it into a large square. (It usually comes in 10×15 sheets so simply cut 5" (Save This) off and you will have a 10×10 sheet remaining). Carefully roll this out on a floured board until the dimensions are more like 12×12. Set your stuffed brie in the middle of the dough and start folding the dough over the Brie a side at a time. With each side stop and paint the dough you have just folded with the egg wash. The object is to make a tight envelop over the Brie. The egg was will help the edges to stick to themselves as you go. once the Brie is sealed up, you can turn it over onto your baking sheet and expose the top area for decorating.
Puff Pastry does exactly that! So it is fun to decorate using it. In the three baked Brie's, I cut the dough in half inch strips and folded each strip in half length wise to form a thick strand and then braided the strands into a loose rope to go around the edge, or in this case to coil into the center. This one is Chili/Honey flavored. The one below is raspberry flavored so I made a large raspberry out of the extra sheet then put a stem and a few leaves on the top. Using a small knife you can make small cuts in the dough and when it rises it will separate and give you a nice textured effect. With the leaves you make a single cut down the length and then a series of vees going into the main center cut to represent veins on the leaf. If you fold two layers of puff pastry dough together and make your cuts from that you can get an even more dramatic rise when it bakes.
If the cutting sounds too difficult, try using a cookie cutter to cut different shapes out of the dough and simply place them on top of your Brie. Stars, hearts, any cutter you have will make an interesting 3D type top for your decorations. Now paint the whole thing in egg wash so the color is enhanced when it bakes. Bake it in a 325 over for 15 minutes or so until it is mostly golden brown. This can be done with "Baby Brie" or Camembert cheese as well for smaller portions. Serve it warm with water crackers and Voila you are in Brie Heaven!