Monday means its time to blog a #FoodieMonday #Bloghop theme based recipe. Our 90th theme is #Cheese. Now who doesn’t like cheese? Before you say ‘I don’t’ hold your horses. There is a huge variety of cheeses out there in the world. Most countries have their own type of popular cheese like Paneer from India, Gruyère from Switzerland, Parmesan from Italy, Cheddar from England, Roquefort from France, Gouda from Netherlands, Oaxaca from Mexico, Halloumi from Cyprus, Akkawi from Middle East, Caravane from Mauritania and so many more. Did you know that there are 1775 varieties of cheeses? So from such a huge variety to choose from surely everyone enjoys cheese. Cheeses are definitely my weakness. When some people reach out for chocolates as comfort food, I need cheese. My supply of cheddar or feta gets over pretty fast because like a mouse at night, I want a small piece of cheese to ward off hunger pangs or just to have something salty.
The main ingredient for a good cheese is good quality milk. It can be cow, goat, sheep, buffalo or even camel milk. The milk is heated or pasteurized. Starter cultures or good bacteria are added to start the cheese making process. Its the type of starter or bacteria that determines the texture and flavour of the cheese. After that rennet or coagulator is added which is a milk coagulator.The mixture becomes like a custard like texture. The coagulated milk is then cut into smaller pieces so that the curd and whey(liquid part) can begin to separate.The curd is then heated. Soft cheeses require low heat and semi hard and hard cheeses require higher temperatures.The whey is drained out and the curd is pressed to make the cheese. Different techniques and salting are used to produce the cheese. Curing is the last stage where the cheese mass is aged to develop the flavour and texture.Some cheeses are aged for a few days and some for weeks, months or years.
Cheeses can be classified as soft and unripened like cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta. Semi soft cheeses like feta, brie or camembert. Semi hard ones like cheddar, gruyère, asiago which melt fast on heating and then the hard cheeses like swiss cheese, parmesan.
For this theme I decided to make Gougères (pronounced as goo-zher). Gougère is a puff or choux (shoo) pastry flavoured with cheese usually gruyère and baked. Gougères are usually served as appetizers along with champagne. They can be served on its own or can be stuffed with small thin slices of meat or mushrooms. They usually are made in small individual portions or as a ring. Gougères are said to originate from Burgundy in France.
Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed this french pastry which I had on my ‘to do’ list for ages. I couldn’t find gruyère so I used the local made Gouda and added about 2 tbsp of feta (was there and had to use it up). Since we didn’t have a bottle of champagne, wine was the next best option.
Once you get the choux pastry right, the rest is easy as ABC. Don’t know why I waited so long to bake these. I really would like to try baking them with gruyère. Some bake them using cheddar, mozzarella and all sorts of hard to semi hard cheeses.
Check out the recipe for this wonderful pastry. You can freeze them and reheat them to serve guests or family. They taste good even when they are cold, so its a good biting kind of food to carry for picnics.
GOUGÈRES (Cheese puff balls)
Makes about 20
½ cup + 2 tbsp plain flour (all purpose flour)
½ cup water
50g (¼ cup) butter, cut into smaller pieces
a pinch of salt
½ cup grated cheese ( gruyère, gouda, cheddar etc)
2 tbsp parmesan or mozzarella ( I used feta)
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley ( or any herb of your choice)
¼ tsp pepper powder
- Add water, salt and butter into a pan. Heat it over medium heat till it comes to a gentle boil and the butter has melted.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the flour. Mix it well using a wooden spoon till the dough comes together and leaves the sides of the pan.
- Return the pan to the heat, lower the heat and stirring constantly cook the dough till it ‘dries up’. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Remember to stir is constantly to avoid the dough from getting burnt.
- Take the pan off the heat and let the dough cool down for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Grease it lightly with some butter.
- When you touch the dough it should not be hot. Add one egg and mix vigourously till it is incorporated into the dough.
- Add the second egg and repeat.
- Add the cheeses, herb and pepper powder and mix it well.
- Take a pastry bag, or a ziploc bag or use two spoons. Pipe out small mounds on the baking tray about 1′ in diameter.
- I used 2 spoons. Scoop the dough with one spoon and with the other slip it onto the baking tray.
- Using wet finger tips, flatten the peaks.
- Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes. Then lower the heat to 150°C and bake further for 5 minutes. The gougères are ready when they are crisp and golden brown in colour.
- Cool them slightly and serve.
- If the dough before adding the eggs is not dried out completely then the puffs will not rise well.
- If you are using a pastry or icing bag then use a ½” round tip.
- Use a semi hard or hard cheese of your choice. Processed cheese will not give you the same results.
- The choux pastry should be crisp and not dry.
- Lightly butter the parchment butter. Too much butter on the paper or baking tray will result in flat puffs.
- If the pastry walls do not become crisp, then it will collapse on cooling.
- Do not add the eggs into the dough when its still hot. It will cook the eggs.
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