Embellished Baked Brie
This brie is a cornucopia of goodies: dried cherries, Oregon hazelnuts, apricots, walnuts, and pine nuts, glazed with Indiana honey. Photos by Daniel Orr

Part 1 of a web-exclusive holiday recipe series that will enliven your holiday cooking. Click here to see all of the recipes from the series.

Appetizers set the tone of the meal to follow, so make sure you get your holiday meal off to a good start with these flavorful, rich appetizers from Chef Daniel Orr.

Embellished Baked Brie
Chef Daniel Orr

Ingredients, all to taste

Dried cherries
Pine nuts
Salt and pepper

1) Cut the Brie in half to expose the creamy interior. Place back in the wooden box.

2) Salt and pepper the cheese.

3) Place dried cherries in the middle. Push hazelnuts down into cheese and arrange walnuts and pine nuts around the outside.

4) Finish by glazing the cheese, fruit, and nuts with a drizzle of honey.

5) Position it over an open fire. Serve when the Brie starts to warm and melt.

Christmas Tree Bread
“Christmas tree bread is meant to be pulled apart and shared,” says Orr. “For the holidays, I like break-apart-style food that’s gutsy, tactile, and real.”

Christmas Tree Bread with Oats and Seeds
Chef Daniel Orr

1 c water
1 c milk
1 T (1 package) active dry yeast
1 T honey
2 T unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap molasses)
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 c bread flour
1 c rolled oats
4 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 T sea salt
1 egg, beaten
Oats and seeds of your choice, to taste

1) Warm milk and water to about 115°F. Combine water, milk, yeast, honey, and molasses in the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir to dissolve yeast. Let yeast work for 5 minutes. The mixture should be bubbly.

2) Add flours, oats, melted butter, and sea salt to the liquid mix. Using a bread hook on a stand mixer, mix for 6 minutes on medium speed.

3) Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm area to rise. Leave the dough to rise for about an hour (or until doubled in size).

4) Shape the loaf by cutting into 8-10 smaller balls and roll into ovals. Put into the shape of a Christmas tree including a trunk on a lightly greased baking sheet.

5) Cover the loaf with a towel and leave it to rise in a warm area for about an hour (or until the dough rises to half again its size). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

6) Brush the top of the “tree” with a little beaten egg. Sprinkle the top of each of the “branches” of the tree with different toppings (sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, wheat bran, oats, fennel seeds, or other fun stuff). Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is done baking when the crust is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the loaf to a baking rack to cool.

Goat Cheese
Goat cheese ball with pecans, cherries, and bacon.

Goat Cheese Ball With Pecans, Cherries, and Bacon
Chef Daniel Orr

1 pound soft goat cheese
Dried cherries (or cranberries), to taste
Pecans, roughly chopped, to taste
Pepper bacon, cut into little pieces, to taste
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
Rosemary leaves, to taste
Thyme leaves, to taste

1) Mix cherries, pecans, and bacon into the goat cheese by hand. Then add salt and pepper.

2) Shape the mixture so it looks like a very large softball.

3) Decorate the outside with rosemary and thyme leaves.