As winter lingers on (and on and on), here's a simple, stylish hors d'oeuvre I like to serve fireside, along with a pretty crudité and lots of good red wine. The fancy French term is Brie en Croute, but I prefer the more Pepperidge-y name, Brie in Puff Pastry. Sure, you could spend hours making your own from scratch, and when I was in culinary school, believe me, I did. But sometimes, you just can't beat the convenience (and buttery goodness) of Pepperidge Farm. Now add to that a creamy brie, sweet apricot preserves, and easy embellishments anyone can do. But consider yourself warned: Perfect this little number, and you'll be the talk of the town. "What can I bring?" you'll ask. "Ooooooo," they'll say. "How about that cheesy, tangy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness all wrapped up in one pretty little package?"


What you'll need: puff pastry sheets, a 6-inch brie, a jar of good preserves—I used apricot—toasted almonds if you'd like, a rolling pin, an egg, a little flour and finally, for that all-important wow factor, an assortment of cookie (or fondant) cutters. To start, thaw the pastry sheets about 30 minutes, then roll them out on a lightly floured surface. 


Spread 'em.


Flip and trim two inches from the edge.


Fold onto the round and press edges to seal. Make sure you're neat, though. I'm watching. 


Now for the fun part. Press cookie (or fondant) cutters into leftover pastry to make shapes. I like a little nature with my pastry, so I chose leaves. Monograms are my other favorite.   


Some people call me crazy—even neurotic. I prefer "detail-oriented."


Now brush a lightly beaten egg—oh yeah, do that too—all over the brie, arrange
your cutouts (artfully now) and brush again. 


Such a pretty little package, isn't it?


Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees, twiddle your thumbs a minute or two, dab the drool from your mouth and toast up some bread. 


Now pick a pretty platter…


…serve it up warm and let the compliments begin!