When I was young, I thought that the most sophisticated things were French. I loved those wobbly supermarket creme caramels where you would break off the tabs and the whole caramel would come shimmying and wobbling down the sides. I always thought that it was a marvellous feat that it was able to do that-it seemed almost magical or as if science were involved.
I was in my thirties before I tried a gougere at of all places Alain Ducasse at the Dorcester Hotel. I didn't like a terribly sheltered existence at all, quite the opposite at least food-wise, but when I sat down to a bowl of gougeres I became hooked. I was all too familiar with choux buns as a sweet item but as a savoury item they were a wonderful revelation. I scoffed gougere after gougere, forgetting the fact that I was about to embark on the degustation meal to end all degustations.
When we did a recent class with Patisse, they gave us a container of the choux pastry to go home with us. I knew straight away that I wanted to make the cheese gougeres with it and I heeded chef Vincent Gadan's suggestion of using Gruyere cheese and filling them with bechamel sauce. Gougeres are a traditional wine tasting snack originating from Burgundy in France. I made them and they were a little too big (what's new you might ask, I always make things bigger than they're meant to be) but they were deliciously moreish and easily scoffable. And if you are indeed under 30 and have never tried a gougere, please don't turn thirty before trying these!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is one food that you think everyone should try?
Gruyere Cheese Gougeres
Adapted from a Patisse recipe
Makes about 4 dozen gougeres
100g/3 1/2 ozs butter
125g/ 1/2 cup water
125g/1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon caster or superfine sugar
1 tablespoon salt
150g/5ozs plain flour
5 large eggs
1 cup finely grated gruyere cheese plus 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top
1 egg, beaten extra
gruyere Bechamel Sauce
4 cups milk
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of gruyere cheese grated
1 pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon piment d'espelette chilli powder (optional)
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 190C/380F. Place the butter, milk, water, sugar & salt into a saucepan to boil. Add flour and then stir the mix with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes until the batter pulls away from the side of the pot. Remove from heat. Place mix into a mixing bowl.
Step 2 - While beating the mix with paddle, gradually add the eggs and cheese. Store overnight in the refrigerator.
Step 3 - Pipe mixture into small balls on a baking tray lined with silicon/baking paper making sure to leave an inch space between them. With the extra beaten egg and a fork dipped lightly in it flatten the poking up tips by making a cross hatch pattern on top. I find I need to re-dip the fork in the egg after ever three presses or so. Sprinkle with extra cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 190C/380F and then turn oven down and bake at 160c/320F for another 10 minutes.
Step 4 - Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce. Firstly heat the milk up-I always find this easier to incorporate warm milk into a bechamel but you can use cold milk. In a saucepan heat the butter and once melted, "cook" the flour in the butter, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk whisking at the same time adding 1/2 cup at a time until it is a smooth consistency. Add finely grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and piment d'espelette if using and allow to cool. If it is lumpy, pass through a sieve (not too fine a sieve though).
Step 5 - When the bechamel is cool and the choux buns are ready, poke a small hole at the bottom of the choux buns (I used the end of a chopstick) and wriggle it around a bit. Then place a small tip (about the size of the hole) in a piping bag and fill it with the bechamel sauce. Serve with wine. Or just eat a dozen by themselves. I won't tell anyone.