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
I finally bought a new cookbook. First time in about two years, so I bought the French Market Cookbook, which I have been lusting after for about six months now. So lust eventually won, as it always does, and I have a new cookbook to play with! The cool thing about this cookbook is that it’s divided up not by recipe type, but by season. So I looked up various winter recipes, and found “Cauliflower Gratin with Hazelnuts and Turmeric.” A few adjustments based on what I had in my fridge, and a lovely new recipe was made.
1/2 a head of cauliflower
1/3 head of broccoli
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
Cheese sauce (below)
Take the hazelnuts and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so. Pull them out of the oven and, once cooled a bit, rub the skins off the nuts. Roughly chop and set aside for later. In the meantime, chop the cauliflower and broccoli into florets, and steam until slightly tender but still a bit on the crunchy side. Set aside.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup and a bit of milk
1/2 cup or so strong French cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once its melted add the flour and mix it in. Pour in the milk and whisk continuously – making sure the butter-flour mixture melts completely into the milk. Its important to stir constantly, to prevent any sticking on the bottom, or lumps. Once the sauce has thickened, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg – a pinch or two of each, according to your taste. Then add the cheese, as stir it in until it is all melted into the sauce. The recipe suggests Gruyere or Comte, but I used raclette. Pour the hazelnuts in as well and mix. Put the veggies in a baking dish, and pour the cheese-hazelnut sauce on it. Mix so that the veggies are coated. Pour bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
Tasty! Less guilt than one would normally feel because the cheese sauce is on vegetables, not pasta or bread or anything. The recipe called for turmeric, which I actually have, but couldn’t bring myself to use as the sauce just tasted so good already. I didn’t want to mess with that. I served this with a French red bordeaux, naturally. I’m sure a California red would have worked too, but I felt the need to go with a French wine for authenticity’s sake. Song of the week: Coin Operated Boy by Dresden Dolls. We’ve all been there – it’d be so much easier that the messiness and confusion that comes with real boys and girls. Bonus – this comes as a fun Buffy fanvid!