Happy Hour at Home

December 19, 2008

I can’t lie: I like going out for happy hour. But it is fun to do it at home from time to time (like today when Dan got home early on a Friday.)

What’s happy hour without a killer snack? Since election night, I’ve been on a gougeres tear, making these happy little cheese puffs by the three-dozen and stashing them in the freezer for when it’s unexpectantly necessary to celebrate. Here’s the recipe:

1 cup water

1/2 stick butter (unsalted, please)

2 heavy pinches kosher salt (divided)

1 cup flour (All purpose, of course)

4 large eggs

1 cup grated cheddar, packed (like as much as you can squish in your cup)

1 cup grated Romano, packed (ditto–unless you don’t like cheese)

Preheat the over to 425.

Prepare two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. (Actually, never mind, if you don’t have silpats, buy them, silly. If you are contemplating making gougeres you know you need them.)

Over medium high heat, bring the water, butter and one heavy pinch salt to a boil. Turn the heat low, add the flour, and mix–vigorously–until it looks shiny like a dough and you see no raw-looking flour patches. Less than five minutes.

Unless you are very strong, break out your stand mixer. Spoon the dough in the mixer, turn it on low, and beat the eggs in one at a time until it’s all pretty well incorporated. (Chef friends: Is it supposed to get perfectly smooth? Because for me, it’s pretty lumpy.)

Turn mixer to low, and stir in your cheeses just until combined.Plus, another good pinch of salt. And pepper, if you are Dan. I don’t really like pepper in these.

Now, what you really should do at this point is call my sister. She makes these incredibly perfect (yet not compressed) rounds using the quenelle-two spoons method, which I somehow taught her not knowing how to do it myself.

You don’t know Jill? OK, try to make reasonably round teaspoon-sized shapes and drop them onto your silpats. And don’t compress them.

Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and delicious. Please don’t eat more than three. (Unless Obama is in the middle of winning the election.) That wouldn’t be healthy. These freeze really well for at-home happy hours whenever you want you.

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