Sunday Supper

Sunday Supper: Gougères are cheesy and elegant, too



Parmesan Bacon Gougères

Adapted from Down South — Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson-Potter $35)

Gougères make a delicious appetizer for almost any meal, paired with sips of a sparkling wine from California.

4 strips of thick-sliced bacon

1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cups bread flour, sifted

3 large eggs

1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 425. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp but not too dark. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, and reserve 1/4 cup of the rendered fat. When the bacon is cool, chop to make 1/2 cup.

Bring the milk, 1/2 cup water, the butter, and the reserved bacon fat to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the salt, onion powder, sugar, and cayenne. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir very quickly in one direction. The flour will quickly absorb the liquid and form a dough. Continue stirring to cook the flour (and remove its “raw” taste) and simmer off more of the moisture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the saucepan, an additional minute or two.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until each is incorporated into the dough, which will change from shiny to sticky as the eggs are worked in. On low speed, stir in 1 cup of the Parmesan and the bacon until just combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop (about 2 inches in diameter), scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Top the gougères with an equal amount of the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Per serving:

Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

American consumers are seeing a growing array of many fine artisanal cheeses at specialty food stores and supermarkets. People not only are buying more cheese, they are buying more interesting varieties and finding ways to incorporate them into their culinary repertoire.

One of my favorite ways is to make French cheese puffs called gougères. I like to serve them as an appetizer alongside a sparkling wine.

The dough used to make them, pâte à choux (little cabbage — because of its shape) is the same as for cream puffs or profiteroles, but with grated cheese added to the mixture. American extra-sharp Cheddar from Vermont, French Gruyère or Comté, or Spanish Manchego are good choices.

Gougères start as a paste of water, butter, flour and eggs and finish as crisp, airy shells. What is remarkable is how simple and versatile the recipe is to make at home. All you do is bring water, butter, salt to a boil, dump in flour, stir it in and cook it to “dry” the mixture. Let it cool, then beat in eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth and satiny, and mix in the cheese. Spoon the dough out onto a baking sheet and bake at a high temperature — 400 degrees — and watch it puff up spectacularly.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when making pate a choux.

• When the gougères look done, make a couple of tiny holes in the top of the puffs, and leave them in a turned-off oven for another 10 minutes. This lets the internal steam escape, which makes them crispy and less likely to become soft over time. Cool gougères on a cake rack immediately after removing them from the oven.

• The basic recipe can easily be doubled. Cream puffs can be made a day ahead and packaged in airtight containers. Re-warm in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes.

• Gougères freeze well. It might be fun to make extra so you can have some in your freezer for the next time you need a quick hors d’oeurve. After baking, allow them to cool completely. Spread the gougères out on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with plastic wrap and freeze until they are firm. Then store them in sturdy plastic bags for several months.

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.”

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