And it would save on washing up too - instead of using the brie baker, the bread itself becomes the brie baker - handy to know if you don't possess such a piece of equipment.
I'll not give the recipe here - it would be a breach of copyright as the only changes I made were to substitute a lovely local Tunworth cheese for the brie, Sweet Freedom for the brown sugar and a supermarket crusty cob for the sourdough bread (I've not been lured onto the sourdough bandwagon yet - I don't think we eat enough bread to make cooking it on an ongoing basis viable). Oh, and most importantly, to increase the amount of fresh thyme from half a teaspoon (why bother?) to a couple of tablespoons.
The first task was to fry the pears and shallots together then simmer them with the other ingredients for the caramelised layer
Next the top was removed from the bread, and a deep hollow the diameter of the cheese cut from it - with the removed top and middle set aside for dunking purposes. The cheese was halved them layered alternately with the pear mixture, and topped with a layer of slivered almonds.
Then it was all baked until gooey - the recipe said for 45 minutes but after half an hour we couldn't bear to wait any longer, the fragrant thyme and rich cheese smell had lured us both into the kitchen. Maybe with a larger, heavier loaf it would have needed longer, but my flimsy little supermarket bread had allowed plenty heat to penetrate by then!
The verdict? Utterly delicious. A real triumph. The pear layer and the crunch of the almonds gave extra layers of flavour and texture from our usual baked cheese dishes. We scooped up the filling with the removed bread and some crispy Romaine lettuce to help balance the richness.
And when the two of us sat back, replete, having demolished all but a small fragment of the bread shell as well as all the filling, I glanced back at the recipe and read "Serves 8"
I'm joining in with the March link up for Cooking with Herbs at Lavender and Lovage