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?"

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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. 

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Spread 'em.

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Flip and trim two inches from the edge.

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

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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.   

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

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

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Such a pretty little package, isn't it?

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

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Now pick a pretty platter…

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…serve it up warm and let the compliments begin!

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