we didn't mean the same thing, i think.

I still don't feel like Christmas is just around the corner despite the cookie exchanges and Grinch watching and paper cuts and long lines and excessive butter consumption. But it's here - ready or not. For the most part, I've managed to side-step the usual hub-bub and I swore to only bake one sort of Christmas cookie this year - the Monster cookie. It's been my most favorite cookie of 2009 and with the extra large batch it makes, I'm sleeping like a baby without worrying over peppermint extract and cream cheese fillings and chocolate dipped truffles. It's just too much, really. I just can't do it.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I have to confess something horribly dirty. Wrong. Shocking, even. My sweet tooth is growing soft on me. I don't mean that it's giving me a cavity (well, not that I know of), I mean my tolerance for sugar coated treats has reached a new low. There were glorious days when I could eat five or six cookies in one sitting and still crave more. I used to be so vibrant, so full of sugary life that no amount of gumdrops and sugar plums and Aunt Trish's monkey bread would satisfy me. Not anymore. I daresay it's the turning twenty-four bit that did it to me, although in a way, I knew this was coming.


Just the other night I whipped out a batch of homemade Oreos, sweet and salty chocolate wafers with a fat spoonful of vanilla buttercream sandwiched between them - and I took two bites. Two bites and I was content, wanting no more, craving something savory to push the cookie bits down my throat and away from my tastebuds. What is happening to me!?


Rather than lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering what will become of my caramel apple cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip banana bread, apricot scones and sweet potato pound cakes - I dismissed this unfortunate incident as merely an adverse affect to an overdose of cookies, cake, brownies, truffles and everything else that my poor tummy has endured as we barrel toward Christmas - full steam ahead. So I ignored my urge to cry and instead dug up a recipe for gougères, a French choux pastry with cheese folded right into the batter, topped with flecks of crunchy sea salt and entirely too easy to eat.


Traditional gougères have Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, but I was snowed in and we just so happened to have a gift box of local cheese in the fridge. Score. I used smoked cheddar from Palmyra Farms, a local, family owned farm in my hometown that makes not only delicious cheese, but also produced my first high school crush but alas- I am not a dairy cow and it was never meant to be. Now my Justin, being the vigilant taste-tester that he is, came over despite the gloomy weather and I immediately stuffed him with four or five of these cheesy little darlings. Wanting to know what they were, I started to explain, but I didn't want him to feel like a frou-frou pansy amongst his police officer friends for eating choux pastry of all things, I simply smiled and said, "They're cheese puffs, honey."


Jacques Pépin, Food & Wine

1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler or Gruyere)
Coarse salt (fleur de sel or kosher salt) to sprinkle on top

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute to dry the mixture a bit. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, let cool for 5 minutes, then process for about 5 seconds.

Add the eggs and paprika to the processor bowl, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until well mixed.

Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat or parchment paper.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese, then add the remainder and all the Swiss cheese to the choux paste. Stir just enough to incorporate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out a level tablespoon of the gougère dough, and push it off the spoon onto the cooking mat. Continue making individual gougère, spacing them about 2-inches apart on the sheet. Sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt and a little of the reserved Parmesan cheese on each gougère. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with drinks.

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