Updated: Jun 7
Last week’s blog post made me think about what other things I do to challenge myself.
When cooking, I love to make something I’ve never tried before. I love the challenge and anticipation of what all the ingredients in the recipe will taste like; will I be able to make it and will I learn something I can use again? These are the things that motivate me.
I usually don’t make a new recipe right away and most often I don’t even attempt it until an occasion arises. Usually, that’s a dinner party. Trying an untested recipe when guests are coming is imprudent, but I love the risk. It gives me something to look forward to, something new to add to everything else I’m doing—I find it exciting.
So much can go wrong and it has. There was the time I made a rice dish and then decided to put it in the oven to heat it up and ended up with a gummy mess. I only realized it after serving it to my guests, who politely didn’t utter a word. It was only afterward, when I reread the recipe, that I discovered it was supposed to be served at room temperature. Or there was the time I added too much salt to a fruit salad, or when I tried to make biscuits and ended up with flat hockey pucks. None of it was good and yet these “failures” haven’t stopped me. Free-flying cooking is not a habit I recommend, but I have to admit I’ve learned a lot doing it and most often it all works out.
For New Year’s Eve, I decided to make Gougère. They are French cheese puffs made out of choux dough combined with cheese. They are delicious served warm with drinks before dinner.
I was slightly intimidated by this recipe since the way it is made is different than anything I had tried previously. I was wrong, this recipe was easy. Since it’s the base for a lot of other recipes such as French cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, Paris-Brest, and croquembouche the classic wedding cake. With one experiment I’ve now expanded my repertoire. That’s exciting. And, for me, the excitement is worth the risk of “failing.”
Inspired by Alain Ducasse's Gougères recipe
Makes: approximately 24
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
Preheat oven 400°
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese plus 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil.
Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the dough into a bowl; let cool for 1 minute.
Beat the eggs into the dough, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one.
Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip or into a freezer bag and cut off the bottom corner to create a 1/2 inch opening.
Pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350° oven until piping hot.
When making the choux pastry, it is important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next. Don't worry if the batter separates and looks curdled at first. Keep beating, and it will come together nicely.
They can be frozen for several months.
To add more flavor and a little variety, try adding chopped bacon bits and finely chopped herbs such as chives, parsley or basil. Be careful not to add too much into the batter as it can weigh the dough down and prevent it from puffing up.
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Judy January 25, 2022
Your Gougeres were absolutely delicious!! As was Tony's pate and your wonderful short ribs! I was our last night out with friends and we are still savoring it.
Reply: January 25, 2022
Judy, Thanks! We are still savoring the evening also. We haven’t partied till 3 am in years!! So glad you were there! -Merci -A
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