Monday, October 03, 2011

Party Food: Gougeres

It's birthday season. More importantly - it's my birthday season.

Usually, I try to ignore my birthday. Most years, I tell everyone who asks that I want for nothing and it's just another day. Until about 48 hours before my birthday when I start to feel bad about myself and decide that I do want to have a party, or at least a get-together of some sort, and my poor husband tries to scrounge up some dinner reservations and nail down RSVPs. This year, he said he'll have none of it. I'm having a birthday party whether I want it or not.  

So, I'm having a party, and I'm going to make all the food myself - because that's not stressful at all - and along the way we're going to take some pictures and document it. Because as a birthday gift to myself, I'm going to re-launch the blog. I'd imagined 31 days worth of posts, but October 1 fell on a Saturday this year and I feel like everything brave and bold should start on a Monday. So maybe we'll get 31 posts, maybe we won't. That's not priority one right now - party food is, and in this case, the magic that is pate a choux. It's both appetizer nibble and when filled with ice cream or pastry cream, a decadent dessert.

Let's Party.

the crazy piper strikes ... why no straight lines?
Pate a Choux
Yield: 2 pounds

16 oz (2 cups) water
5.25 oz (1 stick + 1 1/2 teaspoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ½ oz. (2 scant cups) AP flour 
6 large eggs + 1 egg for wash
small bowl of water, to pat down dough.

For the gougeres (if doing half batch):
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated + more for sprinkling on top

Equipment: large pot, whisk, spatula, parchment/silpat, baking sheet
Optional Equipment: stand mixer, piping bag and tips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot, bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil. Once the butter is melted, sugar and salt dissolved and the water boiling, add all the bread flour at once. Turn the heat to medium-low and whisk quickly to incorporate all the flour. Once the whisk is all "gunked up" - switch to a large spatula or spoon and continue stirring to remove all of the lumps of flour. The goal in this step is to cook out the starchy flavor, and you'll know it's done when a light film covers the bottom of the pot.

Remove dough to bowl of stand mixer. Turn on low to aerate the dough and release most of the steam. Meanwhile, crack 6 eggs in a separate bowl. Once the dough has released the majority of its steam (the amount of steam will have dramatically decreased), add the eggs one at a time, waiting till the previous egg is fully incorporated before adding another. Once all eggs are incorporated, the dough is ready to use. This step can also be done by hand, or used to punish an unruly child.

For profiteroles, or cream puff shells: Take half of the dough and put it in a large piping bag fitted with a large tip. (It's best not to fill piping bags more than half-way, regardless of their size. So much easier to handle) Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking tray in 2 inch circles, lifting the piping bag straight up at the end. This will help you get really round, circular shells. Dip fingers in water and tap down any wayward edges or peaks (they'll burn). Brush with beaten egg.

For Parmesan-Thyme gougeres: Add cheese and chopped thyme to remaining dough in the mixer. Mix together on low until combined and then scoop into piping bag. Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking tray in 2 inch circles, lifting the piping bag straight up at the end. Dip fingers in water and tap down any wayward edges or peaks (they'll burn). Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with extra cheese. 

much prettier piping

At this stage, either bake at 375 dgrees untill puffed, dry on the inside (you'll have to sacrifice one) and deep golden brown - about 30 minutes. Or you can freeze for a later date. To flash-freeze the piped dough, just put the entire sheet tray in the freezer until the dough is rock hard - around 4 hours. Remove and put frozen shells in freezer bag and use within 3 months. Bake from frozen, adding another 10-15 minutes to total time.    

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