Adding cheese to choux pastry makes delicious puffy gougères, perfect little cocktail bites. These are flavored with cheddar cheese and ground walnuts. (Lisa Williams)
These cheddar cheese gougères are sliced and topped with sautéed potatoes and tuna salad. (Lisa Williams)
The last few weeks have been particularly disappointing. Sickness and death close to home, war every day.
Sometimes when I need a break from today’s reality, I remember and anticipate, and it showed in my kitchen.
It’s so easy to get carried away and make the same thing every week. One of my previous record-breaking dinners involved kale and roasted butternut squash. I don’t know how long this lasted but if I remember correctly we used to eat a lot of kale which I think was initiated by an abundance in the box of sustained agriculture by the community. Often a repetitive supper trend is interrupted by a change in season, but I think kale and squash have been around for a while.
I was recently reminded of a mushroom popover pie I made weekly for months. Month. That was over 10 years ago when we lived in Michigan. I can’t remember when or why I stopped as it was extremely satisfying, quick to prepare and provided leftovers for lunch the next day. I’m glad he’s back in rotation.
Beneath the puffy popover crepe is a bed of sautéed mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. (Lisa Williams)
It’s like a small upside-down Dutch pancake. Instead of topping the pancake with a mixture of sautéed shiitake mushrooms and button mushrooms, you pour the pancake batter over the sautéed mushrooms in a cast iron skillet. During cooking, the mixture swells and rises impressively.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
8 ounces fresh button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet over low heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, thyme and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid released from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms turn golden around the edges.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, flour and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender and whisk them into a smooth paste. (If you don’t have a blender, whisk everything together in a medium-sized bowl. It’s fine if the mixture has a few lumps.) Set aside until the mushrooms are cooked.
When the mushrooms are ready, transfer them to a bowl, then wash and dry the pan thoroughly and return it to the stove. Add the other tablespoon of butter, then turn the heat to low – until the butter melts and begins to foam. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir to coat the bottom with butter. (Make sure you get the corners.) Add the mushrooms, spreading them out in a fairly even layer, then pour in the batter.
Bake in middle of oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until dry on top and firm when touched lightly with fingertips. The edges will have shrunk from the sides of the pan and will have turned quite brown. Remove from oven and serve hot or warm, cut into wedges.
Source: Mollie Katzen
And then contemplating foods that swell in the oven, I thought of the cream puffs of yesteryear. Huge ones, each the size of a large grapefruit, filled with vanilla custard and sold by the thousands at the Ohio State Fair.
I also remembered little cream puffs, the ones I cooked then filled with chicken salad and served at a party.
Cream choux pastry is known as pate a choux in French. It really is a few steps and a slightly different ratio of ingredients than the aforementioned puffy pancake. Eggs, milk, butter, flour.
Choux pastry is fun to make because the pastry is first cooked in a pan before being baked. There’s a point in the process where you think something has gone terribly wrong because the dough seems to get stuck. But, as you add the eggs and keep stirring, it comes together.
The recipe I’m sharing isn’t for sweet-filled cream puffs, but for gougères, a cheesy version of choux pastry. The recipe is from cookbook author Dorie Greenspan for whom gougères are her signature snack. Dorie keeps them in the freezer and warms them up to snack on when guests arrive.
And then my thoughts rested on the anticipation of warm, puffy, cheesy bites shared in good company during the brighter, warmer days of spring and summer.
The gougère dough is ready to cook. The measured dough can also be frozen and then removed in plastic bags and saved for later baking. (Lisa Williams)
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs and one egg white, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyere or Cheddar
2/3 cup lightly chopped finely toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly begin to stir vigorously with a sturdy spatula or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form in the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring – vigorously – another 2 minutes or so to dry out the paste.
Put the dough in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if mixing by hand). Let the dough rest for 1 minute. Add the eggs and egg white one at a time and beat until the batter is thick and glossy. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. The dough may appear to fall apart, but by the time the egg white penetrates, the dough will come together again. Beat mustard, then cheese and nuts.
Using about 2 teaspoons of dough for each gougère, drop the dough by a spoonful onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between each mound of dough. You can also use a cookie scoop to shape the dough.
Put the baking sheets in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes until puffed and golden.
Storage: The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, then when they are solid, remove them from the foil and wrap them tightly in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer – no need to thaw – although they may need a few extra minutes in the oven. Leftover puffs can be stored overnight and reheated in a 350 degree oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.
Source: Dorie Greenspan
Little Gougere Tea Sandwiches
Gougeres can be made into small sandwiches for tea time or as a party appetizer. Wait until they are almost cold, then cut them delicately with a serrated knife.
Apple: Cut an apple into very thin pieces. Pour 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sauté in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 5-7 minutes until the apple begins to lightly brown. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and allow to finish cooking. Sprinkle with a few grains of salt. Place a teaspoon between the gougère slices. Garnish with basil or thyme.
Tuna or Chicken Salad: Prepare your favorite recipe. Slip a teaspoon or two of salad between the slices of gougère, garnish with parsley or basil.