This was the first week of the French Fridays with Dorie internet cooking group, and I am so happy to be able to participate, especially since we started out with such a yummy little bang -- although maybe it would be more accurate to say that we started off with a yummy little *poof*
The assignment for this week was to make the first recipe in the book, which was for these tasty little French appetizers called gougères. That sounds very fancy and could be a little intimidating, I suppose, until you realize that "gougère" is the French word for "cheese puff," an appetizer that has been on these shores for many a year. In fact, I believe that these pretty little things are the more upscale French cousin of our very own Sausage-Cheddar Balls, a down-homey Bisquick recipe that might be better with a smidgen of sweet sherry or even a very cold beer. Dorie writes in Around My French Table that the traditional drink with gougères is the cocktail known as kir, but that she herself prefers champagne. See what I mean about "more upscale"?
At any rate, the gougère is a savory pastry that puffs up in the oven and is flavored primarily with cheese, a sharp cheddar in my case, although many different kinds could be used.Gruyère is typically used, but apparently any kind of sharper, bolder cheese will work. I wouldn't think you'd want to use a mild, mellow cheese because it would just blend in with all the buttery egginess and it would be a little bland.
As you can see in the second picture above, all my simple ingredients came from my favorite discount grocery store, ALDI. They happened to be out of whole milk on the day I did my shopping, so I opted for half-and-half instead of waiting for the dairy truck to arrive. The ALDI in my city carries unsalted butter year 'round (it used to be available only during the holiday season and at Easter) and everything else is readily available, so this was probably one of the easiest shopping trips I've ever had. In three weeks, I have to buy star anise, and well just see how chipper I'm feeling about that Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup recipe then, won't we?
Picture number three illustrates the soft dough after the milk, butter, salt and water have been boiled, the flour added, the eggs cracked and the grated cheese tossed in. I mixed it all with a hand mixer and it was very easy; one thing I appreciate so much about Dorie's recipes is that she doesn't automatically assume that you have a stand mixer that cost more than my first car sitting in regal pride of place on your kitchen counter. If you have one, that's great, is her attitude. If you don't, use a hand mixer. Or your own sturdy arm. She is flexible, and luckily, so is my arm. As I mentioned, I used my hand mixer and didn't have to resort to using my own physical strength, which dwindles as the week goes on and can only be partially revived by a large glass of wine.
The last picture shows two piping hot gougères, sitting on a napkin and waiting to be eaten. I didn't have any champagne, but I did have a nice, cold glass of iced tea. My husband had one and allowed that he thought a French cheese puff would be just as good with a cold beer as a Sausage-Cheese Ball would be. Meelyn and Aisling were appreciative of a nice little treat as they finished up their schoolwork at the dining room table, so all in all, I'd count this first week as a great success.
I feel that my cheddar cheese was not as salty as cheddar sometimes can be, so my gougères probably would have benefited from an extra pinch of salt. I'd definitely like to try them again, perhaps with a different kind of cheese. They were really easy to make, just about foolproof. And delish, so what's not to love?
Coming up in the next few weeks on French Fridays with Dorie:
- October 8, 2010 - Gerard's Mustard Tart
- October 15, 2010 - Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup
- October 22, 2010 - Hachis Parmentier
- October 29, 2010 - Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake