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When celebrations come round and we anticipate the arrival of family and friends, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is get out some good cheese and bread to keep our guests from starving while the rest of the storm is being cooked up in the kitchen. These tender pull-apart bread rolls, served with bubbling baked camembert can be layed out with a variety of nuts, pickles and jams so that everyone is happily entertained before the main course.

I say it’s all about easy entertaining over the long Easter weekend and the three T’s I try consider when hosting is, time, taste and trend. I lean towards dishes that can be made ahead, without sacrificing taste of course and it should make a statement. That’s why I love this dish – it’s mouth-watering, easy to do and fabulously creative. Everybody loves a good cheese and one can’t go wrong with the creaminess of a camembert. I’m not an expert on cheese but I do know that if you’re looking for a soft, creamy cheese that melts in your mouth, this is the cheese for you.

Camembert is French and can be identified by it’s round shape and bloomy rind. The bloomy rind refers to the developing mould (don’t be discouraged) on the surface of the cheese which encourages the flavour on the inside. Similar to Brie and the Italian Tomino, these cows milk cheeses are often referred to as surface ripened cheeses for exactly that reason. While the surface matures, the interior of the cheese becomes soft and creamy, so incredibly, that many cheese lovers refer to it as a paste. It is very, very delicious and while wedges of camembert can be enjoyed as is, with crusty bread and various condiments, to really, truly taste it’s full potential I think this cheese was created to be baked. Usually it is conveniently packaged in a wooden box to almost suggest baking it. Baked, it drizzles, dribbles and drips onto soft dinner rolls or crusty bread with delectable comfort.

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If you’re intimidated by the making of bread rolls, don’t be. The yeast, the stand mixer and the proving time does all the work for you which is the best part of making bread rolls like these. It really boils down to whether or not you can make little balls out of dough like we did so many times as children. That is really the only effort you have to put in. As soon as the dough ready, the little dough balls can be formed immediately and left to prove from anything between 45 minutes to an hour or even longer depending on your needs and those of your hungry guests.  To intensify the flavour, some garlic and herbs can be added through tiny slits made on the surface of the cheese. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil before baking, bring it piping to the table and watch it disappear.

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Ingredients
  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 7g dry yeast
  • 125ml milk
  • 30g butter
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 200-250g camembert in a box
  • sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 garlic pod
  • poppy seeds
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • egg wash
Preparation
  1. Add yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar and one tablespoon of water and leave for ten minutes to activate.
  2. Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat milk and melt butter together until warm but not boiling. Beat egg before adding warm butter, milk and egg to the mixing bowl.
  3. Add two cups of flour and start the mixer on low speed.
  4. After two minutes turn up the speed until all the flour is incorporated to form a dough.
  5. Add half a cup of remaining flour with salt and knead for a minute more on high speed. At this point if the entire ball of dough comes away cleanly from the bowl, the dough is ready. If not, add the last half cup of flour a tablespoon at a time, mixing on high speed until the dough comes away clean from the bowl.
  6. Gather the dough, brush with a little canola oil to keep from drying out and set aside.
  7. Place a sizeable piece of parchment into a large round baking dish. Remove the cheese from the wooden box and place it in the centre of the dish. Keep the cheese standing out so that it can reach room temperature.
  8. Cut the dough in half, make two equal rolls with each half. Cut each roll into little even pieces (approx 20 in total) and begin rolling into balls. Place the balls around the cheese box leaving room for expansion. Make one full circle of balls and then another. If there is any remaining dough left, roll it out long enough to fit around the balls (optional). Brush with egg wash.
  9. Cover with parchment to prevent drying out before placing in the oven for an hour to prove. Depending on the weather the oven may be switched on for a minute on low heat before switching back off and placing the buns inside.
  10. Once the hour is up remove the rolls from the oven, at this point the gaps should be well filled out as in the picture above. Preheat the oven to 180°C gas fan / 200°C electric fan / 200°C conventional.  Meanwhile brush the rolls with egg wash again and sprinkle on the poppy seeds. IMG_6335 copy
  11. Remove the wrapping paper from the cheese. Make three slits on the top and push in a few slivers of garlic and pinches of thyme. Drizzle the top of  with olive oil and place the cheese back in the box. Place a few more sprigs of thyme over the buns for added aroma.
  12. Bake for 15-18 minutes until soft and golden. IMG_6341 copy
Maestros Need to Know

*The Camembert can take between 10-15 minutes to be baked hence these bread rolls which take the same amount of time to bake, pairs well with the cheese where is baking time is concerned. However it is important to remember to keep the cheese at room temperature so that when the rolls are ready to be taken out of the oven the cheese is ready too. 

*The use of poppy seeds are optional and may be substituted with black sesame or white sesame or none at all.

*While the raw slivers of garlic added to the cheese will soften during the baking, caramelising the garlic before adding it to the cheese will further soften it and improve it's taste, eliminating the burn if you bite into it. You may do this if you like, by lightly sautéing it in a drop of oil until it browns slightly.
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