French Cheese Puffs

img_7279Something made me think of gougères the other day–this doesn’t happen often, but the thought of these crispy, toasty cheese puffs sounded so good that I decided to make a batch. I consulted my favorite French cookbook, “The Taste of France,” by Robert Freson, went to the store to buy some grated cheese and some tulips (indispensable for brightening up these wintry days) and a bottle of Beaujolais (a Burgundy wine), which is traditionally served with the puffs.

img_7287We normally have a small glass of Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner, the whole bottle costing $2.79. So this morning when I bought the $10.99 bottle of Beaujolais-Villages, a “plump wine with notes of strawberry, black cherry and spice,” I felt like I was going wild!

I baked up the puffs, and realized that to photograph them, I should show them with a glass of the Beaujolais, which meant that I should drink it–waste not, want not. The Midwestern Methodist in me felt a little shocked–guzzling wine at 12:30 in the afternoon on Monday? I asked Jim if he would share. “Oh, if I have to,” he replied. So we both had a sip, and snarfed down a crunchy puff. This is when we discovered what a genius combination the wine and the cheese puffs were: the fruity wine with the toasty cheese flavor is so good!

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Here is the recipe:

Gougère

9 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
2 cups of flour, sifted
5 eggs
8 ounces finely shredded Swiss cheese
one more egg, beaten

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease with shortening if you don’t have the paper), and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine the butter, salt and 1-1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil; remove from the heat and add the flour all of once. Mix with a large spoon. Return to the (low) heat and stir until the mixture smooths out and comes away easily from the sides of the pan, one to two minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the five eggs, one by one, mixing each until well blended. Add the shredded cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Scoop up the dough with a large spoon, and drop blobs onto the prepared baking sheets. Glaze with the beaten egg, and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before eating.

Baking notes: You are basically making cream puffs here, with the addition of cheese. If you’ve never made cream puffs before, the process may seem a bit strange, but persevere–the results are worth it! The original recipe called for Gruyere cheese, but I knew it would be tough to find at my local supermarket. So I looked for grated Swiss cheese, which is a good substitute–but came up zero. Yikes. So I used a finely-grated Italian five cheese blend. This worked well, and you could probably use a finely grated sharp Cheddar. I don’t recommend mozzarella, as it may be too moist.

There are many different recipes for these puffs, some calling for milk, others for add-ins such as chives. You can also add cayenne pepper or a pinch of nutmeg. It’s the toasty cheese flavor, though, that goes so beautifully with the wine, so I wouldn’t stray too far from the classic recipe.

Below, the photos show the sifted flour, the cooked butter, flour and water mixture, then the mixture with the eggs added, the blobs of dough on the baking pan, and the baked puffs.

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Here are some goldfinches on a sunny day.

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img_5059In these nerve-jangling days, I’ve been using my cat Puff as a guru. He sleeps so deeply and serenely! Keep the faith. Fran

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