Savory Puffs – Cheese and Hazelnuts
Ok, to clarify, this doesn’t mean that the puffs contain both cheese and hazelnuts. It means I made a cheese version and hazelnut version out of the the same basic recipe. I’ve been straying from baking lately. No particular reason beyond the fact I like to bounce around a lot between different kinds of cooking. But this week I wanted to do some actual baking. The original plan was to do some kind of dessert pastry, but somehow I got sidetracked into the land of of savory pastries. This time it was savory puffs, inspired by a recipe from the French Market cookbook. The basic dough, pate au choux (or choux paste) is a super basic and these puffs are in all probability endlessly versatile and can be adjusted to any number of flavors. But for the time being, we will stick with two – cheese and hazelnut
Pate au Choux
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
2 dashes nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
Heat the butter and milk together in a smallish saucepan. Bring to a simmmer, then turn off the heat. Add the nutmeg and stir. Then dump in all the flour and mix. It should form a fairly coherent, smooth dough. Let cool for a few minutes. Crack an egg into the pan, and mix it into the dough. That will be seriously difficult. It won’t seem like a doable prospect, but you’ll be able to make it work with persistence. Then add the second egg. It will be slightly easier, although still require effort. Mix the dough with the variation of your choice and stick it in a quart-sized plastic baggie. Cut the corner off the bottom of the baggie. Squeeze some of the flavored choux past onto a baking sheet in a circular shape – maybe 2 tablespoons worth. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm.
To make the cheese version: shred 3-4 ounces of intense hard cheese. Traditionally you should use Comte or gruyere, but I used parrano, because it is my favorite intense cheese. Add the cheese to about half the above recipe of choux paste and continue from there.
To make the hazelnut variation: Take a dozen or so hazelnuts and stick them on a baking sheet. Stick them in the oven and toast them at 400 for maybe ten minutes. Pull them out and let them cool a little. Then chop them up, finely, and mix with the choux paste.
Solid recipe. The puffs were a bit less puffy than I had hoped, and a bit less circular than I anticipated, but I think that is a matter of practicing the technique as much as anything else. Certainly the hazelnut ones, which I cooked second, looked a bit better than the cheese ones. I think, for the sake of mastering the technique of course, that I should probably make more versions of these puffs in the near future. I liked the cheese ones a bit more than the hazelnut ones, but I like cheese more that hazelnuts so that isn’t saying much. Serve with red wine, preferably a European red. I had this with a Rioja Tempronillo, but I think any full but not overwhelming red would work. It is, after all, technically an appetizer and thus should be served with a not-too-heavy wine. Song of the week: Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest. One of the many one hit wonders who made life better with their hit. And it’s completely true, you can’t dance and stay uptight – music is magic like that