Food writer Rebekah Peppler was born and raised in one cheese-loving place (Wisconsin) and now lives in another (Paris), so it's no surprise she considers it an essential part of a festive spread.


Credit: Jenny Huang

Recipe Summary test

5 mins
35 mins
Serves 4 to 6

While nut-encrusted cheese balls were a staple at the holiday parties of Rebekah Peppler's youth, in the City of Light she opts for a more elegant preparation, tucking pitted dates alongside cubes of ripe Camembert, showering them with fresh thyme, and baking until gooey. A final drizzle of chili oil adds spicy complexity to the rich starter dish. Do as Peppler does and serve it with a dry Champagne.

This recipe originally appeared in our Holiday 2021 issue. Get the magazine here


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat olive oil until just warmed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in piment d'Espelette. Set aside to infuse and cool.

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Tuck the Camembert pieces into a 4- to 5-inch ovenproof baking dish and add the dates in the spaces between the cheese. Sprinkle with thyme and bake until the cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle with some of the piment d'Espelette oil and serve with crackers or crusty bread. (The remaining oil will keep at room temperature in a tightly sealed container for 1 month.)


Piment d'Espelette is a fruity, mild chile powder from the Basque region of France.