The Mystery of Baking: Gorging on Gourgères

“You may feel that you have eaten too much…But this pastry is like feathers – it is like snow. It is in fact good for you, a digestive!” M.F.K. Fisher

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I do hope that M.F.K. Fisher was talking about Gourgères, because when I made these first thing in the morning to launch my weekend of baking, before I could even reach for the camera, half of the golden puffs disappeared from the cooling racks. I can vouch for the feathers and snow part – Gourgères are made from a pastry dough called pâte à choux, the same pastry used to make eclairs, beignets, but replace the sugar and a healthy amount of flavorful cheese. The dough doesn’t use any leavening agents, just steam from the baking makes the dough puff up and leaves behind a large empty space begging to be filled with cream. Not planning for the empty cavern that resulted, I hadn’t planned for piping anything into mine, and they were still lovely, but I think the next round will be accompanied by some type of savory filling, to give my own spin on the pastry.

Inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Around My French Table, I have begun at the beginning (usually my favorite part of any cookbook, as it often is where all the appetizers hide), with her recipe for Gourgères, as all the ingredients were already in my kitchen, and best of all, you can freeze the unbaked puffs to be tossed in the oven at a moment’s notice. Putting the dough together on the stovetop and my stand mixer went very well, the only frustrating part was the attempt to transfer the dough (whose consistency is more like a cross between frosting and mashed potatoes) to dollops on the baking sheet, as my lovely dough stuck to everything, especially the spoon, refusing to settle into cute lumps like cookie dough. Instead my pasteies came out with incredible character, but various sizes, which meant some puffed perfectly, while others collapsed quickly.

They freeze well, and last a full 24 hours just fine at room temp – here they are the next morning:
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What arrived, among others, from the UPS man that afternoon was the book SprinkleBakes by Heather Baird – a FANTASTIC book for anyone interested in the ins and outs of baking basics, as well as inspiration and tools for creating confections like you see on TV. In her book she has a recipe for traditional pâte à choux, and she suggests the use of a pastry bag to pipe the dough out onto the baking sheet, and dip a finger in water to flatten any peaks, which should result in lovely, uniform pastries, particularly useful if you’re attempting to create something like eclairs.

Here’s all the fun books I dove into this weekend:
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If you’d like to try Dorie’s recipe before buying the book (as I am sure you will once you try these), you can find her recipe over on epicurious.

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