Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cocktail treats and gougeres

Hmmm, it's been awhile since I last posted. But don't worry, you didn't miss anything. I didn't grow anything in the garden or cook any delicious meals in the past 6 months. Really.

Yesterday Miss Rose co-hosted a lovely cocktail party with hubby and I at our place (she has such a tiny cottage!). It was a huge success, with delicious mulled wine, a Rose Signature Cocktail (a sparkly ginger cranberry concoction),
many fun friends, and fun snacks. Since this is a food blog, I shall focus on those snacks, and one in particular.
My co-hostess put together some very tasty shrimp cocktail, and made some mini loaves of yummy pumpkin bread. We had a simple platter of olives and pickles, and for this I opened my first jar of pickled cauliflower from this year's garden. They were delicious! The recipe calls for some curry spice, so the cauliflower had that nice flavor and was nice and crunchy. I also made some hazelnut brittle. A super simple candy, as candy goes. And oh so nutty. And good for your teeth.

But that's not what I want to blog about either... What's worth blogging about after all these months are the gruyere gougeres (say it 10 times fast, and that sounds like Grew-yare Goo-zhair) - or cheese puffs. What a fun and delicious appetizer! There are probably lots of very similar recipes out there on line, but I didn't do a lot of research - just went with a recipe in the newspaper from January 2011, which was in turn adapted from "The French Laundry Cookbook". The puff pastry dough was something fun and new to make - and apparently pretty fool-proof since it turned out perfect on my first try. The best part was that I made the dough and blobbed it onto cookie sheets in the morning, put them in the freezer all day, and then just had to pull them out and pop them in the oven a half hour before the party started. Easy! These were amazing fresh out of the oven, and still good a few hours later towards the end of the party. I bet they would work great with parmesan or cheddar too.  

Here's what you need: 
- cookie sheets
- parchment paper
- saucepan
- stand mixer
- ideally, a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch wide plain tip
- freezer space
- 1 cup water
- 7 Tblspns butter
- 1 Tblspn kosher or sea salt
- 1 tspn sugar
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere (5 oz)  

Here's what you do:
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add all the flour at once, reduce the ehat to medium and stir with a wooden sppon for 2 minutes. It will turn into a thick ball as you cook and stir. Transfer dough to a stand mixer bowl and beat on low for 30 seconds or so to cool it off. Add one egg at a time to the mixture as the mixer stirs it on medium. Stop the mixer to see that the consistency is thick and silky, and the tips of the dough peaks fall over. If it's too stiff, add the white of one more egg - or the whole thing if needed.
Fold in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Then either load the batter in a pastry bag or use a spoon (it's messy) to drop about 1 Tablespoon blobs onto the lined cookie sheets, an inch or so apart. Sprinkle each blob with a teaspoon or so of grated cheese to use it all up.
Now you can put them in the freezer and cook them later, or cook them right away. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 450. Cook for 8 minutes at 450, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve nice and warm. (makes about 4 dozen)