I’m a little late to report on my latest trials for Cook the Book Fridays. I have a reasonable excuse. I was away on a grand adventure to Mexico for a family wedding. We were staying near Cancun in Riviera Maya. It was wonderful. Other than the wedding, the highlight was visiting the ruins at Chichen Itza. We also tasted some authentic Mexican fare from the Yucatan peninsula which I’m looking forward to trying to replicate at home.
First up, I made the Comté and Ham Wafers from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. These are a savory version of slice-and-bake cookies, one of my favorite things to have on hand for nearly instant gratification. The wafers are more cheese than flour, making them very crispy and light (though not low calorie). The ham is prosciutto that is baked until crispy and then crumbled, high-end bacon bits. I used recently dried thyme from my garden rather than fresh herbs, but I think they tasted just fine.
I sliced-and-baked one log, which we nibbled alongside the evening’s cocktails –Corpse Reviver #2 – a pre-Prohibition cocktail we discovered during last year’s trip to Florida. It’s one of our favorite house cocktails now. I thought I’d freeze and save the other log for another night, but we scarfed them up. The other log is baking in the oven now.
I loved these wafers and will make them again. The type of cheese and herbs and ham (or absence of) can easily be changed for different combinations to suit your mood.
I must have made my logs thinner than intended because the recipe gives the yield as about 55 wafers and slicing at the stated ¼-inch thickness, I got about that many from each 1¼-inch diameter log.
The other recipe I made was Tabbouleh also from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. . I’m a big fan of tabbouleh, though the way I make it uses way more bulgur. This version is typical of authentic tabbouleh from Lebanon. It’s more of an herb salad. Chopped parsley and mint leaves are the main ingredients, accented with some chopped tomato and scallion. Just a touch of bulgur is added for some texture. The salad is moistened with some olive oil and lemon juice. Finally, a sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice give this a definite Lebanese spin. A touch of pomegranate molasses adds some extra tang. Years ago, I learned to add cinnamon and allspice to tabbouleh from our dear cooking friend Kathy, who was part Lebanese. Enjoying this salad for lunch, I thought of Kathy and how I miss her.
The tabbouleh was delicious, though I would enjoy it more in the summer. This time of year, I crave hot foods, not herbaceous salad.
You can find these recipes in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. The wafers are on page 45 and the tabbouleh is on page 95. I recommend them both. If you are interested in what the other members of Cook the Book Fridays have to say about these recipes, check out links to thoughts on the wafers here and the tabbouleh here.
Here are a few shots from Mexico.
It’s hard to contain my excitement. This week, Dorie Greenspan published her newest cookbook, Lucky #13, called Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook. It’s not a baking book this time. It’s an all-round cookbook with enticing pictures. As I browse the pages, so many recipes jump out and say “Make me! Make me!” As always, Dorie’s kind and encouraging voice guides you through the headnotes and instructions.
From October 2010 until May 2015, I cooked each and every recipe from Dorie’s previous all-round cookbook Around My French Table. It was an enjoyable and educational journey. Along the way, I met and bonded with a virtual group of cooks who were doing the same. A subset of us have continued to cook together under a group we call Cook the Book Fridays. Sticking with the French theme, we’re currently working our way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. With this week’s new book launch, we’re adding Dorie’s book to the mix. We’ll cook one of Dorie’s recipes each month until we finish up David’s book then continue until we make all the recipes in the new book. Hopefully, more of the original gang will join this new venture.
So, we begin….
The inaugural recipe I made from Everyday Dorie is My Newest Gougères. “My” is Dorie’s voice, not my own. For those not versed in French food words, gougères are best described as savory cheesy cream puffs. They are made with the same pâte à choux dough as cream puffs with the addition of grated cheese, and in this “newest” version, toasted walnuts and some Dijon mustard.
On paper, pâte à choux could seem intimidating, but it’s not that hard. You bring milk, water, butter, and salt to a boil. Then, you add flour, and stir, stir, stir, over low heat to dry out the dough.
Next, you beat in eggs (a stand mixer is best) one at a time, leaving you with a sticky dough. Finally, you add the cheese, mustard, and nuts.
Finally, scoop the dough onto parchment- or silicon-lined baking sheets. I used a small scoop which yielded 6 dozen puffs. We didn’t have any guests, so I baked one dozen to snack on before dinner. The gougères were light and airy. The nuts added a welcome bite.
Dorie suggests keeping frozen unbaked puffs in the freezer, leaving you prepared with appetizers when friends stop by for an impromptu (or planned) visit. That’s where the remainder ended up.
What a fitting start as the first recipe I made from Around My French Table was also gougères. I must admit that I haven’t made them since. I’m not sure why. Hopefully I remember to make these again before Dorie publishes her next book. You should try them too (recipe below or page 8 of Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook). Or give me a call that you’re stopping by and I’ll pull some from the freezer and bake them for us to share over an aperitif.
Also follow my Cook the Book Fridays friends’ links here to see what they thought of Dorie’s Newest Gougères.
And last, but not least, GO RED SOX!!!!!
excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
MY NEWEST GOUGERES
Makes about 60 gougères
Gougères are French cheese puffs based on a classic dough called pâte à choux (the dough used for cream puffs), and it’s a testament to their goodness that I’m still crazy about them after all these years and after all the thousands that I’ve made. Twenty or so years ago, when my husband and I moved to Paris, I decided that gougères would be the nibble I’d have ready for guests when they visited. Regulars chez moi have come to expect them.
Over the years, I’ve made minor adjustments to the recipe’s ingredients, flirting with different cheeses, different kinds of pepper and different spices.
The recipe is welcoming. This current favorite has a structural tweak: Instead of the usual five eggs in the dough, I use four, plus a white—it makes the puff just a tad sturdier. In addition, I’ve downsized the puffs, shaping them with a small cookie scoop. And I’ve added Dijon mustard to the mix for zip and a surprise—walnuts.
1⁄2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
1⁄2 cup (120 grams) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1⁄4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (preferably French)
2 cups (170 grams) coarsely grated cheese, such as Comté, Gruyère and/or sharp cheddar
2⁄3 cup (80 grams) walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
My secret to being able to serve guests gougères on short notice is to keep them in the freezer, ready to bake. Scoop the puffs, freeze them on a parchment- lined baking sheet or cutting board and then pack them airtight. You can bake them straight from the oven; just give them a couple more minutes of heat.
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat and immediately start stirring energetically with a heavy spoon or whisk. The dough will form a ball and there’ll be a light film on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough. Dry dough will make puffy puffs.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work by hand with a wooden spoon and elbow grease). Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one, followed by the white, beating until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. The dough may look as though it’s separating or falling apart but just keep working; by the time the white goes in, the dough will be beautiful. Beat in the mustard, followed by the cheese and the walnuts. Give the dough a last mix-through by hand.
Scoop or spoon out the dough, using a small cookie scoop (11⁄2 teaspoons). If you’d like larger puffs, shape them with a tablespoon or medium-size cookie scoop. Drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each mound. (The dough can be scooped and frozen on baking sheets at this point.)
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are puffed, golden and firm enough to pick up, another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately—these are best directly from the oven.
STORING : The puffs are best soon after they come out of the oven and nice (if flatter) at room temperature that same day. If you want to keep baked puffs, freeze them and then reheat them in a 350-degree-F oven for a few minutes.