I got this recipe from Splendid Table, which is a show on Public Radio. They, in turn, excerpted it from Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheeses. I’ve restructured it a little, showing which parts I did in advance to make it easy once guests arrived.
In my opinion (as someone who earned his living in the high-end food world for thirty years), this recipe is really brilliant. It takes into consideration those classic qualities of Chardonnay (vanilla, butter, and “toast”) and enhances them to magnify the flavors even more.
Brie Toasts with Chardonnay-Soaked Golden Raisins
1-1/2 cups water1 cup Chardonnay
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half vertically (I have also done this with 1 t. pure vanilla extract)
1 c. golden raisins
12 oz. double-crème Brie
24 slices of baguette, ¼ inch thick
4 tablespoons melted butter
The day before serving:In a medium saucepan, combine the water, wine, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat. Scrape the insides of the vanilla bean into the liquid, and add the remaining bean (or add the extract). Add the raisins, allow them to steep for 1 hour uncovered at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. (This mixture will hold for up to two weeks, refrigerated).
A few hours before guests arrive:Drain the raisins, reserving the liquid. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Put the liquid back on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and allow to reduce to 1/3 cup, about 10 to 15 minutes. Once it begins to turn a golden brown, remove from the heat so it doesn’t burn. It will thicken as it cools, and have a texture like maple syrup.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush each side of the baguette slices with melted butter, and toast in the oven about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Slice the cheese while it is still cold into 24 pieces. (I spread them out on a cold plate and put back in the refrigerator (covered), since Brie can be a nightmare to work with when it’s warm.)
A little while before guests arrive:Put a slice of cheese on each toast. Spoon a few raisins over the cheese, and drizzle the syrup over the top. (This is where the original recipe ends, serving the toasts at room temperature. I put them back in the oven for about 10 minutes, and it was INCREDIBLE!)