Welcome to the world. Here are some cheese puffs.
Apologies all around for the MASSIVE delay in postings – I caught the nasty tummy virus floating around D.C. and have only just now regained my appetite.
A week ago, some friends and I got together to celebrate the (then) soon-to-come J, the second child of some grad school friends of mine. It was a tiny impromptu gathering of folks, just to show lil J some love (and to tell him to hurry his cute butt up and meet us!), and we were each asked to bring a dish to munch on. Clearly something worked, because J’s mama gave birth less than a week after the shower to a healthy 9.5 lb. baby boy.
The cake was duly covered by the talented Kim, so I volunteered to provide an appetizer. What’s a fancy baker to do, when the joy of providing snobby French sweet pastries is denied her?
Make a snobby French pastry that’s savory, of course.
I had initially considered bringing a baked brie, or a cheese plate, but then I remembered that pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat soft cheeses (like blue cheese, goat cheese, or brie), which basically took all those things out of commission.
So I perused my blogroll for something easy to make, easy to reheat, and something that would go well with the other items people were bringing (something snacky, something sweet, and some hummus), and came up with: gougères! …(more pictures after the jump)…
Gougère is a snobby name for what is, essentially, a cheese puff. You take a choux pastry (more on that later), mix it with some spices, then eggs and cheese, then scoop it into cute little balls which puff up in the oven.
The process is kinda weird – I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, which uses milk and butter to start the dough, but I found some variations that use water. You boil milk and butter (and a few spices) together in a pan, then quickly mix in a vast quantity of flour.
Grate your cheese.
This is one of those recipes where it really is necessary to have all of your ingredients prepared ahead of time. E.g. A giant container of cheese, freshly grated. I used gruyère and parmesan. And yes, I sprung for the good stuff. (That’s around $15 worth of cheese you’re looking at. Ahem.)
Back to the recipe…you basically heat up the milk mixture, take it off the fire when it’s boiling, dump ALL the flour in, and stir until it’s combined. Put the mixture back on the stove to dry it out a tad, then throw it in a metal mixing bowl to rest before giving it a good whiz to stir it all up. A note here – I used my Kitchen Aid, to fabulous results. The recipes online all argued over whether you should put the dough in a food processor or not, but based on the quantity of dough, there was no way I was getting it all in my little 3 cup processor, so I cheated and used the beater attachment on the Kitchen Aid to do the same thing.
After you pulse it, then you let it rest a further 10 minutes to cool off (this is to prevent it from cooking the eggs when you crack them in). After adding the eggs (mix them in very well – use a handmixer or a standmixer to do this) you add the cheese and mix just til incorporated. Then you can pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet (which I did not do) or you can use two spoons (which I did do) to dole it out.
I found the dough to be quite stiff – almost like a chocolate chip cookie dough, so it was easy to shape the balls with my hands. Don’t forget a little dusting of parmesan flakes on top before you put them in the oven!
They’re done when they’re slightly golden – mine were left a bit too long.
A quick word on the type of pan you should use for these (and all cookies). I’ve got a phenomenal air-bake pan, which puts a layer of air between the part of the pan touching the item to be baked and the source of heat. I cannot stress how important this is to preventing burned cookie bottoms. Because I have somehow lost mine (it disappeared somewhere between the party and our apartment) I had to fake it with two jelly roll pans, nested. It worked better than leaving the jelly roll pans alone, but I’m going to buy another cookie sheet. It’s just that important.
Anyways – the puffs were good, light, tender and airy, though I thought they were a bit too strong on the cheese flavor. Perhaps next time I’ll use a more mellow central cheese and use one of the other two as an accent. I’m excited that I made a choux dough, though, because I’ve been wanting to try these for some time (and I happen to know they have pearl sugar at the Sur La Table near my house).
So welcome to the world, little (big) J – we’re happy to have you with us!