Your goal is to welcome guests with nibbles, not fill them up too much before the main event. A single show-stopping cheese — a gooey baked brie — is perfect for cocktail hour.
Start with store-bought puff pastry (a great time-saver!) and roll in ground pecans, which add a nutty note to this mouth-watering appetizer. Sliced baguette and tart apple wedges, along with a compote of fruit, balance out the buttery richness. Also, you get to express your artistic side with the pastry leaf decoration!
Make-ahead tip: You can make the compote up to a week in advance. It only takes 20 minutes of prep time and is ready in under an hour. If you prefer a non-boozy compote, sub in apple cider for the port.
For the boozy fruit compote:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until port just starts to turn syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes (the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools). Let cool completely. Remove cinnamon stick and serve, or store, covered, in refrigerator up to 1 week.
For the baked Brie with boozy fruit compote:1.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Toast pecans on a baking sheet until darkened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Grind in a food processor.2.
Increase heat to 400º F. Unfold pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle pecans evenly over half of pastry; fold over other half and pinch edges to seal. Cut pastry in half cross-wise; pinch cut edges to seal. Roll out one half to an 8-inch square.3.
Brush 1 tablespoon Dijon on one side of the Brie. Place in center of rolled-out pastry, mustard-side down. Brush remaining 1 tablespoon Dijon on top of Brie. Roll out remaining half of pastry to a 9-inch square. Center over Brie and gently press around it to remove any air pockets. Trim pastry, leaving a 1/2 inch border around Brie. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather dough scraps and reroll to 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters or a pairing knife, cut out leaf shapes and score cutouts with veins. Transfer cutouts to a sheet with Brie. Freeze until pastry is firm, about 20 minutes.4.
Brush top and sides of pastry with egg. Adhere cutouts to top of pastry in a decorative pattern, and brush cutouts with egg. Bake 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350º F and continue baking until pastry is puffed and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes more (if it's browning too quickly, loosely cover with foil). Serve hot, with Boozy Fruit, apple wedges, and baguette slices.