Winter in Portland is not known for its abundant sunshine. Quite the opposite, actually. That’s why once the cloud parts, you may suddenly see a flurry of activity outside; people making a quick dash to their mailbox, heading out for a jog, pulling a few weeds from their garden, you get the idea. It was a very brief respite from the the clouds today, only enough time for me to grab my camera and snap a couple quick shots from my kitchen window. I’m hoping this brilliant flash of blue will help woo my family to come out for a visit soon. If this photo doesn’t work, however, I think these lovely gougères might do the trick!
I was recently in Chicago over the holidays, and popped into the Hyde Park branch of Powell’s Bookstore. They have a fantastic selection of used books, and I may or may not have let out a little squeal of delight when I stumbled across the cookbook section. I can easily spend hours paging through cookbooks new and old, and I was elated to find a copy of Simone Beck’s Food & Friends. Ms. Beck provided the bulk of the recipes for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I knew I would be in good hands with her follow-up collection of recipes and musings. There are oodles of things I cannot wait to try out, but I started with a simple gougère, and couldn’t be happier with my decision.
Gougères are a nifty little cheese puff made using a savory choux paste with the addition cheese, often gruyère. Now I shall sing their praises: first of all, they are easy and quick to make, and secondly, you can freeze any extras and reheat them at a moment’s notice. Even better, they are great on their own or make a perfect vehicle for a savory filling. What more can you ask for!? Beignets are so 2011; 2012 is the Year of the Gougère!
Adapted from Simone Beck
These puffy little misters can be made in advance and rewarmed in a low oven (around 300 degrees) for about 5 minutes. They can also be frozen and rewarmed in the same manner.
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs plus 1 egg white (reserve yolk for glaze)
1/2 cup grated gruyère cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside. Combine egg yolk with 2 tablespoons water and set aside.
Place the water, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and add the flour all at once. Stir constantly until a smooth mass has formed, and the mixture begins to dry out ever so slightly, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and create a well in the dough. Add eggs and egg white, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. (This can be done by hand or in a stand mixer. It depends how strong you are feeling that day.) Add the gruyère and parmesan, and nutmeg and pepper to taste.
Place dough into a pastry bag or a plastic gallon bag with one corner snipped. Pipe 1-2 tablespoon blobs (This word seems the most fitting.) onto prepared cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Using either your finger or a small pastry brush, brush the blob tops with the reserved yolk mixture. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the gougères are puffed and golden. Enjoy plain, or you can gently slice off the top third of each puff with a serrated knife, fill with a tasty sauce (horseradish cream, perhaps?), and replace their golden caps, preferably at a jaunty angle.
Makes 4-5 dozen puffy gougères!