Monday, December 17, 2007

Gougeres (Page 33)

  • Date: Saturday, December 15, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike M, Teresa, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Ann, Daniel L, Kent, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Marcia, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, and Tricia
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I love gougeres, and they are the perfect party food (small, tasty, addictive) so I made them for our get-together on Saturday. I have only one complaint about this recipe. The recipe claims that the gougeres can be made a day or two ahead, refrigerated, and then rewarmed in the oven before serving. So this is what I did. But it was terribly sad because right out of the oven the first time they were fabulous, and after the reheating they were merely good. I had worried that this might happen. When fresh they were crispy on the outside, which was a lovely contrast to their hollow, airy center. After a day in the refrigerator, they were soft. I attempted to recrisp them in the oven of course, but they never quite got there. A chef in culinary school once told me that you can store pastries made from pate a choux dough on the counter, or in the freezer, but never in the fridge. I should have heeded that advice and frozen these gougeres, but I foolishly trusted The Book. All that said, right out of the oven (the first time) these gougeres were perfect. They are simple to make: start by making a pate a choux dough, mix in some cheese, pipe and bake. They puff up beautifully, and are delicate and delightful, with the taste of gruyere. I wholeheartedly recommend them, with the warning that they should NOT be refrigerated.

This recipe isn't online.

Pate a choux is the classic french pastry that forms the base for cream puffs and eclairs. It also makes appearances in gougeres (as here), profiteroles, French gnocchi, and some more elaborate desserts that you rarely see in the states (e.g. Paris-Brest and croquembouche). It's a fascinating pastry, characterized in part by a huge rise giving airy, almost hollow centers. The remarkable thing is that the only leavening agent is moisture. There is no baking soda or baking powder present. That huge rise comes entirely from steam.

Our first day of baking in culinary school was the pate a choux day. Everyone chose a different recipe, and made something with choux paste as an essential component. I made salambos (delicious, delicious little pastries: shorter, stubbier versions of an eclair pastry, filled with coffee pastry cream, and dipped in cooked sugar to give a hardened caramel top. If you want a second opinion on these, ask Mike). Other people made all sorts of crazy things (e.g. those cream puff swans that you see at hotel banquets). Each of us probably made 20 or 25 pastries. There were 16 people in my class. At the end of class, before critiquing, we displayed all of our pastries on a huge long table. I wish I had the picture with me so I could post it. It was quite a sight -- dozens and dozens of pastries! And then we moved down the table, and tasted/critiqued each dish one by one. That was the day I ate my first gougere, and my first salambo, and my first piece of Paris-Brest... I could go on! I have fond memories.


Mike Hill said...

Oh man. If you haven't had the sublime pleasure of eating Teena's "Sambos", then I pity you. They are probably the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, hands down. I love them so much that when Teena made them for a party, she made a second tray for me, just so that when I ate an entire tray of them, there would still be some for the other people.

As to a grade, hmm. Well, I would give them an A+, since they are sublime and I would eat them for every meal from now on, but sometimes I have trouble getting them, so B.

Teena said...

Ah, Mike. I know how you do love your "Sambos!"

Magdalen said...

Teena -- In your honor, I've decided to make a Paris-Brest for dessert after the big Christmas dinner (which will be served on Monday night so that our sole guest, my ex-husband, can drive back to Philly at a sane time on Tuesday). My (current-)husband's favorite dessert is profiteroles, and from the description on Epicurious, a Paris-Brest sounds a lot like a giant, fancier profiterole.

Mind you, I haven't make pate-choux in a LONG time, but I consider myself a decent baker, so I'm sure it will work out. Thanks for the inspiration!

Teena said...

That's exciting! How did your Paris-Brest turn out? I haven't made Paris-Brest in a long time...