This month, Recipes to Rivals made Cheesy-Poofs! I love Cheesy-Poofs! Technically, they’re called Gougères, but I find Cheesy-Poofs to be much easier and more fun to say. [Shhhhhh, don’t tell my french-speaking boyfriend!]
The theme was appetizers, and we have three options, of which we had to make two. I made Cheesy-Poofs and a blue cheese, walnut, and pear crostini. Both were cheesy, savory, and delicious. First, the Cheesy-Poofs:
I made Gougeres this past summer from a Tastespotting post. I love Greyure cheese, which these french balls of air are traditionally made with. I think my favorite part is watching them puff up in the oven. It seems almost magical! From the Recipes to Rival Challenge:
Gruyère Cheese Gougères, from ‘The French Laundry Cookbook’ By Thomas Keller, November, 1999
Makes about 4 dozen gougères—I halved the recipe, and still ended up with a good 50 poofs.
Gougères are a classical preparation often served at wine tastings in France. The puffs are made from a savory pâte á choux, or cream puff dough-flavored here with Gruyère. They are best served hot out of the oven, offering that creamy-dough gratification. Don’t add the cheese, and the puff is a base for a dessert.
1 cup water
7 tablespoons (3-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Pinch of sugar
1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1-1/4 cups grated Gruyère (5 ounces)
Freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes).
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. The batter in the mixing bowl should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and, if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in 3/4 cup of the Gruyère and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain pastry tip with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into 1-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères as the mixture will spread during baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they puff and hold their shape. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. When the gougères are done, they should be a light golden brown color. When you break one open, it should be hollow; the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougères while hot.
You can also freeze them after piping them onto the parchment paper and cook whenever you like. I did this with half tha batch and it worked very nicely.
And now the blue cheese, walnut, and pear crostini. The whole idea of this appetizer was to try out this trio of ingredients which are rumored to go so well together. I do love blue cheese, but seldon use it because I can’t think of that many uses for it. This one was incredibly easy and delicious and definately to keep on hand.
I started with a small sourdough loaf, cut on a diagonal, brushed with olive oil on one side and toasted. As soon as the slices come out of the toaster oven, I took a cut side of a clover of garlic and rubbed it on each slice. This is a great way to add a hint (or a lot) of garlic flavor.
Next, I crumbled a mild blue, a gorgonzola on top of each crostini, and popped everything back in the toaster oven to melt. As this was all going on, I was toasting some chopped walnuts in a pan on the stove and thinly slicing my pear. Once the cheese looks nice and soft, I sprinkled on some still-warm walnuts and fanned a few slices of pear on top.
All in all, I’ve got two new appetizers under my belt for a quick idea when I need it. Enjoy for your future parties!