There's a deep part of me that longs for the days when meal times were more formal, when people got dressed up for dinner (instead of changing out of work clothes into leggings and a husband shirt. guilty.) and when there were extra food gatherings. An era when events like tea time and cocktail hour still happened! I guess to make that really work, I'd need more servants. At least that's what Downton has taught me.
But in the evenings when I like to pretend we still live in that time, I round up Mr. S&S, put a tasty drink in his hand and present a unique hor d'oeuvre (or, let's be real, a bowl of cashews). Something like this very fancy sounding gougére.
They're really just french cheese puffs.
But light and airy cheese puffs, perfect with white wine, champagne, or sparkling water.
To make a batch takes only 10 minutes, and then you can freeze all the extras. They go straight from the freezer to the oven and take about 25 minutes to bake. How impressed would your impromptu guests (Lord and Lady Grantham, of course) be to see a lovely arrangement of warm, buttery puffs? Probably just as impressed as Mr. S&S is when I obnoxiously over-pronounce gougéres. I would also bet that I'm not even pronouncing it correctly. But when in doubt, just say it louder!
Of course with a leisurely cocktail hour and beautiful hor d'oeuvre, I'm off the hook for a dinner taking any longer than 30 minutes to prepare. Salad it is!
But tote these along to your next potluck occasion, and I can guarantee you'll get impressed looks. Also guaranteed are a lot of questions about whether these are like Red Lobster cheddar biscuits. The answer: only if you need them to be.
Gougéres aka French Cheese Puffs
Makes about 30 puffs, more if you make them smaller than I did
From Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese (Gruyére or sharp cheddar)
Preheat the oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring. The dough will come together. Keep stirring (with vigor) for another minute or two to dry the dough.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a bowl you can mix with a wooden spoon or hand mixer). Let the dough sit for a minute to cool, then add the eggs one by one, allowing each one to be incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Then beat in the cheese. Once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately onto baking sheets, about 1 tablespoon of dough per puff. If you would like to freeze some, place the baking sheet in the freezer, then later place the frozen puffs into a freezer bag. Frozen gougéres just need a minute or two more in the oven, and no defrosting!
Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 12-15 minutes until the gougéres are golden, firm, and puffed. Serve warm.