Food is a process

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gruyère Cheese Gougères

Gruyère Cheese Gougères
Originally uploaded by ilmungo.

Last Sunday we hosted a Winter Feast in honour of our friend Indre, who successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation. Nick and I cooked a seven course meal. Most of the dishes were taken from the French Laundry cookbook, by culinary sensei Thomas Keller. Some others were recreations of dishes that Nick had at his brother's restaurant in Aspen. Each dish was carefully paired with its "perfect" wine.

The evening opened with these Gruyère Cheese Gougères, served on a silver platter as a fun bite-sized appetizer to eat with your hands. They are lighter than air and mostly empty inside, infused with just the right amount of cheese flavour.

These are relatively easy to make, considering it's a Keller recipe. Pretty straightforward. You bring some water and butter and salt and a pinch of sugar to a boil, then dump in all at once 5 ounces of flour — a side note here: I love that Thomas Keller gives weight equivalents for dry ingredients in a lot of his recipes. It is much easier to weigh out 5 ounces of flour that scoop it into a cup and a quarter — and stir over a medium flame until a ball of dough forms, about 2 minutes. Take it off the heat and tranfer to a bowl. Crack in four eggs and mix until a smooth batter forms, which should be at the soft-peak consistency. If too stiff (which was the case in mine) add an egg white. Then add lots of grated gruyère cheese.

This results in a sticky and dense batter. Transfer it to a pastry bag fitted with a rather large tip, and pipe it onto a silpat-lined baking sheet in tablespoon-sized mounds, spaced about 2 inches apart (they will spread and grow in the oven). Before you put it into the 450 degrees pre-heated oven don't forget, as I almost did, to sprinkle some more grated gruyère onto each single puff ball. Bake 7 or 8 minutes, until the gougères hold their shape, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake another 20-30 minutes (20 was enough for me), until golden and delicious. Serve hot.