Friday, February 13, 2009

Cheese puffs and the giant cookie from hell

Not cheese puffs like you're thinking of cheese puffs. When I say "cheese puffs," normally I think of those things that are kind of like cheetos but smoother, and possibly made out of styrofoam.
Not that those kind of cheese puffs are bad. I looooooooooooove those kinds of cheese puffs.
No, these things are technically called "gougères" according to David Lebovitz and something else entirely by my boyfriend. Something like "_____ ____ fromage." I know it ended in fromage. I didn't have him write it down, so I may have to do a further update with an actual name for these.
Anyway, they are so very easy to make, and soooo very good. This recipe makes "about 30 bite sized puffs."


1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tablespoons (40g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (70g) flour
2 large eggs
12 chives, finely-minced (or 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme)
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces, 90g) grated cheese (See above for ideas)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

2. Heat the water, butter, salt, and chile or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.

3. Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don't 'cook.' The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. (You can transfer the mixture to a bowl before adding to eggs to cool the dough, or do this step in a food processor or electric mixer, if you wish.)

5. Add about 3/4s of the grated cheese and the chives, and stir until well-mixed.

6. Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.

7. Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, the pop the baking sheet in the oven.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F (190C) and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they're completely golden brown.


That's really all.
We couldn't resist eating the majority of the puffs right off the cookie sheet. Only about 6 survived longer than 30 minutes.
But, there are 2 things I must mention:
Because I am poor, I decided I would just use bagged, pre-shredded Parmesan cheese in the mix and to top off the puffs. I would have absolutely loved to go out and buy some comte or gruyere, but unfortunately those are just too rich for my blood at the moment. The parmesan looked, worked, and tasted just fine.
The second thing is, don't panic when you put the 2 eggs in and it seems too runny. Just keep mixing it until it looks more like dough than egg soup. Remember, it needs to be squeezed out of a hole in a bag, so it should be a little runnier than you would think.
The best thing about this recipe is that it really only dirties one dish. If you're careful enough with your parchment paper, the cookie sheet shouldn't even be messy at all.

Now, the giant cookie from hell.
It wasn't supposed to be a giant cookie, it was supposed to form a bunch of little swirly pinwheel cookies. But something went wrong with my dough (I suspect not nearly enough flour, although I measured it correctly) and it would not peel off the damn parchment paper so that I could even begin to roll it.
The idea was posted on The Kitchen Sink around about Christmastime, and I only just now got around to making it. Oddly enough, that blog post was even about how much the cookies went wrong, although they were still good. Mine went even wrong-er. Unbelievable, but true. But I was determined to try to make something that day that involved chocolate and peanut butter, and since this recipe involved both those things melted together, I decided it was fate and I had to make them.

Here is the recipe, via the link above.

For filling:

6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter I WILL NOT USE CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER! It is against my religion. I used regular, and it was awesome.

For dough:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature [UPDATE: see Ellen's comment below. 2 sticks it is.]
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make filling:
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter.

Make dough:
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into egg mixture and beat until combined well.

Assemble rolls:
Halve dough and roll out each half between sheets of wax paper into a roughly 12- by 8-inch rectangle. Remove top sheets of wax paper (if they stick too much, chill dough briefly to firm up slightly) and divide chocolate filling between rectangles, spreading it in an even layer. Tightly roll up each rectangle jelly-roll fashion, beginning with a long side and using wax paper as an aid, to form a 12-inch log. Wrap rolls in wax paper and then foil. Chill rolls until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Working with 1 roll at a time (keep remaining roll chilled), cut rolls crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and arrange slices 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in batches in middle of oven until pale golden and set, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer warm cookies to racks to cool.


Can you believe that in the 2 years since I inherited my double boiler, that I never used it even ONCE until last Saturday? I will never go that long without using it again. In fact, I am thinking of just making the filling this weekend and dipping strawberries in it. Mmmm.
Anyway, I made the dough, I made the filling, and I stuck the dough in the freezer to be less sticky, only it didn't become less sticky enough for my purposes. What we ended up doing is just sticking one half of the dough on top of the filling, which was spread all over the other half of the dough, like a gigantic filled-in pancake, or a misshapen version of those huge party cookies you find at the mall, only without the decorative icing.
We had to bake it to almost twice as long, so that the middle would be cooked. To my surprise, it wasn't hard as a rock either. They were good.
We cut them into little bite-sized cookie pieces with a pizza cutter. I can't imagine how much better they would have been had they actually looked like little swirls.

But, one good thing about this is, I didn't use all the filling, so there was more melted chocolate/peanut butter mix for me to both eat with a spoon and to coat banana slices with. It would have been amazing on top of ice cream.

I highly recommend the filling. The cookie making was a different story.

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