Thursday, August 18, 2005

Seven Sisters Cheese Puffs

An Idea I didn't Quite Pull Off

photograph picture od Seven Sister Cheese Puffs or gougere

If you read through the dozens of comments on my recent post about the Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic, you might have seen mention of my gougere. I wasn't too happy with them so I hid them in a paper bag and pushed them to the back side of the picnic table. People brave enough to try them, implored that they were delicious. They were ok, it's true, but when I tested one on our professional pastry chef, Shuna, she confirmed what I knew all along. They were, indeed, too salty.

Who am I going to blame? Hmm... Let me think. Oh, I think I'll just blame one of the most famous chefs in the entire world like, how about Thomas Keller? When I recently made gougere for Fred's birthday, using a recipe that I wasn't too impressed with from The Cordon Bleu Recipe Book, Mr Bacon Press contacted me and highly recommended the recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook. I loved everything about this recipe, except that it called for 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt or more! It was just too much, and well, you can add more salt but you can't take it away.

I gave the gougere their own local personality by adding finely chopped sorrel from Four Sisters Farm and grated Serena cheese from Three Sisters Farmstead. It was just by coincidence that both farms were named after sisters. I thought it was funny, so I added them together to make Seven Sisters Cheese Puffs!

Locavores August Eat Local Challenge 2005

Yesterday evening's eat local challenge dinner was a success. I made one of the tastiest omelettes to date. Four rashers of Fatted Calf Bacon and one fresh Heirloom Organics onion were gently fried together. I beat the Marin Sun Farm eggs together with some Crumbled Redwood Hill Farms Chevre and then cooked the omelette in the bacon fat. What's not to love about that? I served it sprinkled with Dirty Girl hand-torn basil. Ummm... delicious

Tagged in
Seven Sisters Cheese Puffs


  • At 18/8/05 08:03, Blogger tara said…

    Sam, I love gougères, and am looking for the quinessential recipe. Besides the salt issue, what did you think of this batch, texture wise? I've been torn between trying this recipe from Leite's Culinaria or these from Williams Sonoma. I've got some lovely cheeses in the fridge, and and feel these would be a lovely addition to our packing weekend.

  • At 18/8/05 09:52, Blogger Banlieue Blog said…

    Don't you love it when you can get an honest critique of your food? It takes a real pro, and a friend, like Shuna, to give you the straight-up!
    They looked great, tho!

  • At 18/8/05 11:29, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Well, they look absolutely fabulous. And since I practically share a salt lick with my donkey, Dan, they probably would have tasted just fine to me! : )

  • At 18/8/05 11:30, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    P.S. LOVE the name!

  • At 18/8/05 12:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam and Tara, you are lucky, because I am a gougère fanatic. The recipe I rely on comes from an article by Jonathan Reynolds that appeared in the New York Times 4 years ago. The recipe is actually Nicole Kaplan's who at the time was the pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park in NY. Here it is:

    1 c water
    4 T softened unsalted butter
    1/2 t kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
    1/4 t cayenne pepper
    1 c bread flour
    4 large eggs, at room temp.
    6 oz. grated Gruyère cheese (or serena), plus extra for sprinkling

    1. Preheat oven to 350 if baking gougères right away. Bring water, butter, 1/2 t salt and cayenne to boil in small saucepan.

    2. Place flour in bowl of a mixer, add the boiling water mixture and mix with a paddle, if available (not a whisk), or use a wooden spoon in a bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until dough is smooth. Beat in the cheese and mix until dough is thick and cheese has pretty much melted. Place dough in a pastry bag fitted with medium plain tip.

    3. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and pipe the dough in small mounds onto them. Sprinkle each with a pinch of extra grated cheese and salt. Bake 20-25 min., until golden brown and puffed about 3 times their original size. Try not to open the oven door for the first 10-12 min. to keep them from deflating. Serve and eat immediately. Yield 4-1/2 dozen.

    You can pipe them out and sprinkle with cheese and then fridge or even freeze overnight (if freeze, let thaw while you preheat oven, about 15 min.). Then sprinkle with salt and bake about 5 min. longer than the freshly made ones. Great to do right before guests arrive for a party! Cheers!

  • At 18/8/05 14:09, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    On Bay Area Bites cucina testa rossa posted her recipe "gougeres in Paris"just this week and it has only a pinch of salt!

  • At 18/8/05 14:28, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, like Farmgirl, I'm a sucker for all things salty, so I thought these were really yummy.

    I suppose it's the difference between thinking of them as an hors d'oeuvres or as a snack food.


  • At 18/8/05 15:08, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam,
    they look waaay too good for somebody (that'd be me!) sitting hungry in front of the laptop ;) My grandma used to make tiny little breadrolls for me, thanks for bringing back those memories and inspiring me to search for her original recipe! Meanwhile I should try a recipe for gouceres/cheese puffs ...they look really yummy.

  • At 18/8/05 16:35, Blogger Ced said…

    You know what they say when the food is too salty? La cuisinere est amoureuse... Don't blame Keller, blame Fred.

  • At 18/8/05 23:33, Blogger Dive said…


    This is what happens when you stray from the true path of the enlightened one (TK)!


    Also, I used Gruyere Comte in the gougeres I made. That's not a very salty cheese.

    Perhaps it was the butler, er um, the cheese that did it?

    Try it again and good luck!


  • At 19/8/05 05:38, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Hi again,
    I have to stop coming back here. Reading all of these recipes makes me want to try every single one!

    But I had a thought about the salt. Did you actually use kosher salt? Because I recently read that the coarse kosher salt takes up more volume than other salts, so if you are measuring rather than weighing, 1 Tablespoon of "regular" salt will contain a lot more salt than a Tablespoon of kosher. I'm sure you probably know this, but figured I'd mention it just in case.

  • At 19/8/05 07:05, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    TK definitely has a reputation for oversalting. Even more than usual, I do a lot of tasting as I go with his recipes.

    Incidentally, I'm convinced that his gnocchi recipe in the French Laundry cookbook has a typo about how much salt to use. It calls for 3 Tb, but even 3 tsp. is a little overseasoned. Let's just say that was a tough lesson to learn.

  • At 19/8/05 07:16, Blogger Sam said…

    tara - thank you for the recipes

    melissa - yes - I love the way shuna didn't mince her words. It takes a brave person to do that.

    FG - yes they looked pretty. And they were 'ok' just not as good as they should.

    Brett - thanks for the recipe advice - your methos is next in the test kitchen.

    Amy - and another one for the test kitchen.

    Fatmemeh, you see - I wanted to make fancy, and you were thinking snack, right? :(

    Nicky - I think you in particualr would make gougeres proud to be photographed and eaten

    Ced - ha ha ha ha HA! I'll remember that as my excuse on all future occasions!

    Bacon Press - no - it wasn't my tinkering. I tated the mixture before i added my extra bits. The salt itself was the culprit.

    I did use real kosher salt - but I am sure I read somewhere that different makes have different strengths. I thought kosher was the stronger salt anyhow?

    Derrick - ok now you have me convinced they typed tbsp instead of tsp. Shuna told me it wasn't Thomas but the pastry chef who did these recipes for the book. So lets all blame him, huh?!

  • At 19/8/05 07:26, Blogger Charlotte said…

    Sam, different kosher salts do have different strengths, so that might explain part of it. I use Diamond which gets subbed for regular salt at a 2:1 ratio but some are 1.5:1 (e.g. 2 or 1.5 tea kosher salt for 1 regular).

    Of course the recipe could have totally been leading you down the garden path in the salt department, whatever type you used ;).

    I didn't notice at all because I had eaten of the pork roast and all those lovely sweet summer tomatoes beforehand so my salt tasting had been seriously recalibrated. The cheese and the herbs came through. I'd make them, with the (much) smaller amount of salt.

  • At 19/8/05 23:27, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Let me just set something straight.
    1. Most famous chefs do not do the baking in their own restaurants. 2. you do not need to use bread flour in a gougere. (and it is important that the butter NOT be room temperature.)
    3. Someone made the very good point that there are two distinctly different Kosher salts. The one in the red box is not nearly as salty as the one in the blue box. (this in and of itself has led to many problems in prof. kitchens!)
    4. taste all ingredients before putting them together is a good idea. taste cheese, salt and the raw batter before all are added together.
    5. I learned the very hard way how to make a perfect gougere. in the very kitchen you speak of. But I can take credit for the ones in TFL cookbook, meaning the ones photographed-- I made those.

    I have an affection for pate choux. it's one of those easy doughs with a complex personality.

  • At 20/8/05 08:48, Blogger Sam said…

    Hey shuna - thanks - and I have the red box one, so heaven help anyone trying the recipe with the saltier blue box.

    I did taste the batter before i added the cheese and i knew at that point the salt was too much but i didn't have enough eggs to redo

    last year fred and i made some perfect gougere for his birthday. he found a french recipe, written in french, and so we had to make them together because I needed help with the translation.


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