For most people, approaching a new recipe or cooking technique requires planning, or at the very least, a day or two to read over a recipe and prepare one’s self for the endeavor.
However, my life with Mr. B, particularly in the culinary realm, runs in the complete opposite direction and I often find myself in the midst of some death–or at least, gravity–defying feat. So it was that one Friday evening in the not so distant past, I found myself, quite spur-of-the moment, standing at my stove making a pâte ά choux, a French pastry dough that even under the best of circumstances can be tough to master.
The fact that I’d never before tried my hand at making a pâte ά choux mattered not in the least. It was cocktail time and as Mr. B poured the wine into our glasses, he nonchalantly said,”Let’s make a batch of gourgẻres!”–which in case you don’t know, are tiny cheese puffs and if done right, their crispy exterior gives way to an airy center–perfect for snacking on over cocktails and conversation, or for hungrier times, splitting open and stuffing with a salty slice of aged ham.
There’s no harm in admitting here that I’m a Francophile. This mostly comes from living in New Orleans for a very long period of my life, but it’s also been fueled by an almost near obsession with immersing myself in French cookbooks where those glossy double-page photographs beckon me with rustic baguettes, glossy pastries, and perfectly shaped brioche. I can easily don my straw hat and while away the better part of a summer afternoon lounging in the garden, sipping Pastis and flipping through Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. And, if Mr. B is anywhere in earshot, I never miss an opportunity to share with him my aspirations of delving deeper into French pastries.
Inevitably though, the warmth of the Pastis quickly wears off and upon closer inspection, the recipes are far too long and complicated, so with a heavy heart, I’ll return the cookbooks to the shelf and vow to find a good bakery.
If not for Mr. B, I’d probably never have taken a stab at gourgẻres, but he’s a smooth talker and an even better sous chef. Besides, it was a Friday night and I was ready to have a little fun, so I manned the stove while he measured out the ingredients.
As with any spur of the moment recipe, we had to make a few adjustments, but in the end, this was seriously easy and the final results were so spectacularly delicious that we polished them all off before dinner! Which is a damn shame because these little puffs would be a perfect addition to the breakfast table.
This recipe comes from The Gourmet Cookbook
1 cup of water
1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
pinch of salt
1 cup of flour
4-5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of finely grated Gruyere (I used an really good aged goat)
2 T. grated Parmesan (the good stuff)
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of finely ground fresh nutmeg
1. Position oven racks into the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. In a saucepan, bring the water to a full boil and then add the butter; cook until the butter is melted.
4. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
5. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition, until batter becomes glossy and falls softly from the spoon; if needed, use the 5th egg.
6. Turn off heat and stir in cheeses, salt, nutmeg and pepper.
7. Spoon into a pastry bag (or a plastic bag with a cut corner) and pipe onto cookie sheets, keeping the mounds to about an inch in diameter and around an inch apart.
8. Bake, switching position of the pans, halfway through, until puffed, golden and crisp (about 30 minutes.
9. Serve warm with wine, cocktails and good conversation.
10. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, reheat in a toaster oven until crisp.