Travel, food and holidays frequently mash-up to create great spontaneous culinary experiences. Today’s experience originated with a French Country Waterways barge trip through Burgundy’s canals and the aromatic gougères (cheese puffs) that lead us most evenings to our dinner table.
Dorie Greenspan, in her latest cookbook, Around My French Table refers to gougères as one of France’s national treasures. I agree and Thanksgiving’s freedom from my normal routine gave me the free time to play in the kitchen.
Making gougères is relatively straight forward. First I brought some whole milk, water, butter (it’s French after all) and salt to a rapid boil. And then while stirring like crazy, I dumped a cup of all-purpose flour into the boiling butter milk. In short order the soup turns into a smooth, dry, yellow dough.
Next the dough found its way into the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl (have I told you how much I love my KitchenAid mixer?) and sits and rests for a minute. French chefs are fond of letting their dough rest. It gives them time for a cigarette. Since I don’t smoke, I made a quick espresso because that’s what people in Seattle do.
Now comes the fun part. As the mixer does the heavy lifting, I added one egg at a time, always waiting for the last egg to be totally absorbed by the dough before adding the next. Now you know this is an authentic French recipe because it contains 8 tablespoons of butter and five eggs. The milk, water, and flour are just carriers for the cholesterol
After the last egg is introduced to the dough, I added 1 ½ cups of shredded Gruyère cheese. I flubbed (technical culinary term) this part of Dorie’s recipe. I used shredded Gruyère rather than coarsely grated as Dorie specified. Here’s the lesson I learned: Listen to Dorie. She’s done this before.
My gougères were two-dimensional (round and flat) while Dories’ were three-dimensional — sort of like the difference between a hockey puck and a tennis ball. My guess is that 1½ cups of shredded Gruyère cheese is more than the 1½ cups of coarsely grated Gruyère and the extra cheese provided enough weight that the tennis balls turned into hockey pucks. I’ll consult a structural engineer on Monday, but I suspect she’ll confirm my suspicion.
The last step is to place tablespoons full of the dough infused with butter, milk, eggs and cheese on two silicon baking sheets and place them in a 425° F oven and immediately turning the temperature down to 375° F and baking the two sheets filled with spoonfuls of dough for 12 minutes and then playing Chinese fire drill with the trays turning them back to front and swapping the top with the bottom without losing too much heat and burning extremities. Wow! That was one prime example of a run-on sentence.