What do we want? Christmas food! When do we want it? As early as possible because 2020 has been hard and honestly, why shouldn’t we start filling ourselves with cranberry sauce as early as possible? If Christmas is the season to be jolly, I dare say we could use a bit of that now.
There’s nothing quite like a Greggs. A Greggo. A Greggington. And, as a fairly recent pescatarian, I do find myself longing for a chicken bake every once in a while (we’ll ignore that whole Greggo thing from this point onwards). However, this is the first Christmas of non-meat-eatitude, and as we move inexorably towards December (wasn’t it March yesterday?), I begin to yearn for the festive bake… the ultimate baked good. Christmas flavours, a creamy filling, and the unparalleled delight of biting into crispy, flaky pastry and accidentally burning your tongue on that creamy filling I mentioned just now. Bliss.
So I decided to totally wing it at making my own. My main goal was to make something that tasted good – not necessarily identical to the original – and that was simple to put together. Isla and I both loved it, so hopefully you will too.
Veggie Festive Bakes (Vegetarian, Gluten-free options)
Preparation time: 10 mins+
Cooking time: 30 mins
Baking tray; small frying/saucepan; whisk; pastry brush; fork; a couple of small bowls; the usual cutting implements you might expect from a recipe.
- 1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (gluten-free now readily available)
- 100g Brie
- 4 stuffing balls (or equivalent – allow more time if you’re making stuffing from a mix, like I did, and be aware you’ll only need about a quarter of the final product at most)
- 4 tsp cranberry sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour (use GF if needed)
- 100ml milk (may need slightly more or less – better to eyeball it if you can!)
- Salt & pepper
- Dried oregano
- Egg wash (egg whisked with a splash of water or milk to loosen)
- If using stuffing mix, make this up according to the packet instructions, let it cool, then shred up around a quarter of it and set aside. If using uncooked stuffing balls, cook these as per the packet’s directions, then once again cool and shred. This will just make it easier to assemble the bakes when the time comes. If using cooked stuffing? Wow, well done you. You’re ahead of the game. Just shred it, you daring young scallywag, you.
- Turn on the oven at 180C and let it heat up while you make your quick, thick béchamel sauce (also known as white sauce). With your pan on a low heat, melt the butter completely, then add the flour. Whisk until thoroughly combined, then cook for a minute or so to “cook out” the raw flour taste, whisking every so often to ensure it doesn’t stick or clump. Start adding your milk in generous splashes, whisking until completely incorporated every time, until you’ve added all of your milk and have a thick, creamy sauce. It will be very thick, and will only get thicker as it cools, but this is absolutely what you want. Grate in a little fresh nutmeg, or use the powdered stuff if preferred (just a pinch), along with a little salt and pepper, then give it a final mix. Turn off the heat and get the small amount of sauce into a bowl to cool a little.
- Assembly time. Roll out your pastry and cut in half once lengthways, then crossways, so you have four equal rectangles. Arrange these so that you have space to fill, fold, and seal each one easily. Making sure to leave a good 1cm border around the edge of the pastry for sealing, add a quarter of the sauce to each rectangle; you want to fill one side of the rectangle so that you can fold the other half over the top and seal it. Lay the stuffing on top of this, then slice up the Brie and distribute this evenly between the four soon-to-be bakes. Finally, add a dollop of cranberry sauce on top and get ready to fold.
- I’m doing this as a whole step because I’m a maverick. A rebel without a cause. Etcetera. Make up your egg wash then brush the edges of each rectangle with a little of the mixture. Fold the empty side of the pastry over your filling and press gently along the edges to seal, before crimping along each seal with a fork to ensure it’s adhered properly. Also, it looks nice! So there’s that too. Prick the top of the bakes a couple of times with the fork and glaze the top of each one with a little more of the egg wash. To finish off the look, mix a teaspoon of oregano with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, then sprinkle this over the top of each parcel. Arrange the bakes on a baking sheet – using the greaseproof paper helpfully provided in the pastry packaging – and cook for 25 minutes or so, or until golden brown and puffed up. Eat with care, or dive in with wild abandon and burn your tongue for the true, authentic Greggs experience.
The festive season starts when you want it to start, and in this hellscape of a year, I’ve decided that’s October. The Christmas spreadsheet has been open since September. I am READY. I hope you all enjoy this recipe, and please feel free to mess with it to your heart’s content!
(I’d wish you all a Merry Christmas, but I think someone might kill me.)
– H x