Fireworks exploding, people cheering, champagne corks popping; the familiar sounds of New Year’s Eve around the world!
On a recent trip to the Burgundy region of France while Michelle was out looking for horses to ride, I learned how to make a delicious French treat known as gougere. A kind of French cheese puff that pairs extremely well with chardonnay wine from the Chablis region, this is one treat you absolutely want to share with your guests while waiting for that clock to tick down to midnight.
Katherine Frelon of Frelons Fabulous France, a gracious hostess and chef, rents out her home, a beautifully remodeled open plan stone house, formerly a 400-year-old horse stable. She introduced me to this wonderful puff, the traditional accompaniment to wine tasting in Burgundy, while we toured and tasted with Brendan Moore, wine tour guide and expert, who operates Wine liaisons. With him we learned firsthand just how well these “cheesy choux puffs” pair with fine wine from the Chablis region of France.
In Katherine’s country kitchen I was put to work and learned that Katherine offers an extensive immersion in French culture as part of her vacation tours, teaching culture and cooking along with forays to local markets and rides through the countryside at the local equestrian center. Katherine and Brendan work together to make your tour of France a complete package, including tours of the nearby Cote d’Or, visits to grape growers and local family-owned wine producers, village chocolatiers, and bakeries and open markets. With our gugeres in tow, we were welcomed by a father and his two daughters and a curious neighbor who just had to know what we were doing over there at ten thirty in the morning in the family’s tasting room. He joined us with a glass. The winery, Chablis Daniel Seguinot, produces outstanding Chablis from their Chardonnay grapes. I know, the terms Chardonnay and Chablis have been misunderstand and misused. Chardonnay is the wine grape used to make Chablis. Chablis is not a wine grape, it is a place that makes great wine. In France, the wine is named after the location, particular estate, family, village or plot.
Chablis wines have a lovely mineral taste that pairs perfectly with the gougeres containing the mustard. I was totally successful with Katherine’s guidance. My only warning to you is to make a lot of these, because they will be a guaranteed hit with your guests and we don’t want a scuffle. Give yourself a gift in 2012 – contact the English Katherine and Brendan for a stay at Frelon’s, a trip of a lifetime and a superb value if you love culture, love cooking, food and wine, and perhaps horse rides in gorgeous country with people that will become friends.
Katherine Frelon’s Gougeres
For 20 to 24, you will need the following:
For the basic choux pastry:
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup milk
4 oz. unsalted butter
1 tsp. sea salt
7 oz. plain flour
4 large or 5 small free range or organic eggs (Reserve some egg for egg wash)
Optional: For savory cheese Gougeres add:
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup le Gruyere cheese shredded, set aside 1 oz. to garnish before baking
egg wash from the eggs above
Preheat the oven to 425F. Sift the flour twice to remove any lumps into a mixing bowl or onto some parchment paper. In a small sauce pan bring water, milk, salt, and butter to a low boil. When you see bubbles around the edges of the pan remove from heat and pour the flour into it. Stir immediately with a wooden spoon until smooth and place the pan back on medium heat while stirring until the mix comes away from the sides of the pan, for 30 seconds or so to slightly dry. Be careful not to burn the mix! Transfer the mix to a large mixing bowl that you can hold under your arm, because now the real work will begin.
In another small bowl crack the eggs into it and vigorously mix with a fork. Katherine suggests to dig down and lift the eggs with the fork to get the most air into them, it takes a bit of practice so don’t give up too easily. The goal here is to create the largest bubbles possible, do not use a whisk, this only results in small bubbles and flat pastries.
Now slowly add the eggs a quarter at a time (save a tiny bit of egg for the washing tops later), into the mixture, beating and digging up the mixture vigorously with your wooden spoon between adding the eggs, kind of a cupping and pulling up motion from the bottom of the bowl toward your shoulder, you’ll hear a flopping sound when you get it right. This is a lot of work but so worth it. When all of the eggs are incorporated, the choux should have a sheen to it and be stiff enough to spoon it onto a silicon sheet. If you are making the savory version add the mustard and most of the cheese now. Spoon walnut sized balls onto the silicon lined or greased cookie sheet. Brush with remaining egg wash and top with remaining cheese. You can freeze the entire sheet for a few days to bake at your party or bake for 5 minutes and then crack the door open to let the steam escape, otherwise they will go flat. Keep an eye on the puffs as they will rise and become golden brown when they are done, another 5 to 10 minutes depending on your oven. Note: Be sure to make extra, as these little gems will disappear before you know it!