I wasn’t planning on serving an appetizer Thanksgiving Day. The family dinner was at our house this year. Everyone was in town and coming late in the day. I couldn’t wait to have all my people gathered together again. The house was ready, the dining room table glittered. I wasn’t going to have a starter course because there was going to be so much food… for crying out loud, it’s Thanksgiving! But then I thought it would be more fun to have a little something to nibble on with champagne and drinks before dinner. Not wanting to break the bank OR break my back I decided a holiday stuffed bread was in order. And because my motto is “more is better” I made two. My husband, Jimmy, looked at me as though I had two heads. “I know, I know. It’s a lot of food but if no one eats it, well, we just wrap them up and have them tomorrow.” He knows not to argue when it comes to food, bless his heart. Let me just cut to the chase. When the two loaves had been plated and my nieces began to make their way through the house serving, you have never seen so many faces light up. My family pounced on them as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks. Grownups were licking their fingers. My brother followed the girls with their trays around the house tearing off chunks of warm, cheesy bread and making happy boy sounds. My son, James,
was not happy when he saw me tucking fresh cranberries into the cheese but after his first bite was in complete agreement that the berries were the perfect clean foil against the gooey, richness of the cheese, olive oil and garlic. Both loaves were gone in minutes. Minutes! This recipe is extremely adaptable in that you can substitute the brie for Gruyère, cheddar, mozzarella or the gooey cheese of your choice. You can tuck in gorgonzola crumbles or shredded parmesan. Red pepper flakes are wonderful for a little heat. Not a fan of cranberries? Try blackberries or raspberries. I used whole grain boules but white bread would be fine. Good looking on a table or passed by hand, this starter is perfect for the holidays. It can be assembled hours ahead, only make certain to wrap it tightly so the bread doesn’t get stale. Make certain you have plenty of napkins and enjoy!
Brie, Thyme and Fresh Cranberry Stuffed Bread
- 1 1-pound boule or round loaf of bread, 6″-7″ diameter works well
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- salt and pepper to taste, a healthy pinch of each will do
- 1/4 pound brie cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded Italian 5 cheese, I believe I used Kraft but any brand is fine, store brand or whatever’s on sale
- 1/2 cup or more fresh cranberries or berry of choice
- thyme sprigs for garnish, optional
- Pre-heat oven to 375°.
- Making certain not to cut all the way through to the bottom, slice the bread in roughly half-inch slices. Turn the bread 90° and make 1/2″ slices, again not cutting all the way through. I find if I hold the bread firmly it keeps it from shredding or tearing too much. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Gently stuff the brie vertically in the bread slices.
- Pour half of the olive oil mixture as evenly as you can into the open bread spaces. Set aside remaining oil.
- Toss the thyme leaves with the Italian cheese blend.
- Gently stuff the Italian cheese horizontally down into the bread.
- Pour the remaining olive oil mixture evenly on the bread.
- Tuck the fresh cranberries onto the top of the nooks and crannies of the stuffed bread.
- Spray a piece of tin foil with non-stick cooking spray and wrap the bread tightly with the foil.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake covered for 25-30 minutes.
- Carefully unwrap the bread and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
- Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately.