Saturday, October 6, 2012

Making Gougère like the French!

Basket of gougères
My first experience with eating gougères was in the Burgundy region of France.  I was there to visit winemakers and taste their wines – part of an educational and fact finding mission of sorts.  I would learn more about the specific villages, vineyards and terroirs as well as taste the current vintage to see how it was shaping up.  At each stop the winemaker would not only show us the wine but make us a meal too.
The first course in each of these meals was their version of gougère.  Everyone had their own version and size but the one thing they definitely had in common was that they were served warm.  They are surprisingly light but with a crispy crust and a wisp of steam as you bite into it.  The center is like a subtle puffy cloud of nutty Swiss cheesiness.  Melt in your mouth goodness with the flavor of Bourgogne!
Gougères are basically a type of the classic French pâte à choux, which is taught to first year culinary school students.  The recipe is very straight forward and if they can make it, so can you.
It's important to cook the dough for a few minutes before adding the eggs; this dries it out and makes it more able to absorb the eggs. Adding the eggs in four additions also helps work them into the dough more easily and evenly. The two different baking temperatures help the gougères to first puff and then dry into crispy globes.
1 cup Water
8 TBLS (1 stick) Unsalted butter
½ tsp Dry mustard powder
½ tsp Salt
1 cup All-purpose flour
4 Large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cup (6 oz) Gruyère, grated
Makes about 48 small gougères.
Combine water, butter, mustard and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil.
Once all the butter has melted, remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the mixture comes together and resembles mashed potatoes.
Return the pan to medium-low heat and stir for 3-5 minutes to dry out the dough. The dough is ready when it glistens and is thick enough to hold a spoon upright. Some starch buildup on the bottom of the pan is normal.
Transfer the dough to a bowl and beat on medium-low speed (or by hand with a wooden spoon) for one minute until it stops steaming and is just warm to the touch.
Continue beating and add the egg in four parts. Wait for each addition to be absorbed and for the dough to smooth out before adding the next.  The dough should come together in a very smooth, creamy batter.  Mix in the cheese thoroughly.
Grated Gruyère
Heat the oven to 450°F. Scoop rounded teaspoons (tablespoons if a larger gougère is desired)  of dough onto sheet pans lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Space them at least an inch apart.
Bake the gougères for 5 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350°F. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking. The finished gougères will be puffed, deep golden-brown, and dry to the touch (the cheese may still be bubbling a bit). They will also feel light and hollow when picked up.
Transfer the gougères to a cooling rack.  Serve warm.  Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and re-crisped in a warm oven before serving or frozen for up to three months.
Freeze for Later: To have gougères on hand for later, try freezing them shaped but un-baked. Scoop and then freeze them directly on the baking sheet. Once frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer storage container. Bake them directly from the freezer while still frozen, and let them bake for the longer end of the time range.

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