All pix by Donna
I've already posted on this amazing preparation, but a recent blogger's use of the dough from Ratio got me thinking about it all over again. I made it that night, brought it to a friend's and cooked the cheese puffs there. It took literally ten minutes to gather everything and put it together. So simple, so fast, so good. YOU DON'T NEED A BOXED MIX! DON'T LET FOOD COMPANIES TELL YOU YOU'RE TOO STUPID AND TOO LAZY TO DO IT YOURSELF! THIS IS BEAUTIFUL FOOD MADE FROM BASIC INGREDIENTS: WATER, BUTTER, FLOUR, EGGS!
Monday morning and ready for a rant. What happened at the friend's house? He had some duck confit left over, so we ate half the cheese puffs plain, then we made little duck confit sandwiches out of them with some Dijon. I liked these so much that last night i put down a spoonful of duck confit on the baking sheet and piped the choux paste over them--worked great and you could do the same with bacon or chorizo or whatever, mushrooms, onions, cheese, use your imagination (DON'T LET THE FOOD COMPANIES TELL YOU YOU'RE TOO STUPID TO COOK AND THAT COOKING IS A CHORE! THEY ONLY WANT YOUR MONEY!) Looking for an easy but impressive canape? This is a great preparation. And it's not that it's great for one reason, but for a thousand reasons. Like vanilla sauce—one technique gives you a thousand preparations. You can do many things when you understand the magic of pouring flour into simmering buttered water, cook it to a paste then stir in eggs.
Yes, add cheese and bake for a snack while dinner cooks or to turn into fancy-seeming hors d'oeuvre by making mini-sandwiches. You can bake it sweet and fill it with cream (cream puffs and eclairs). But you can also boil it and turn it into something called Parisian gnocchi (poach, then saute to crisp them, add herbs for flavor, serve as you would any pasta). You can add them to soup for dumplings (THE best dumpling for chicken and dumplings). Combine them with mashed potatoes for the lightest most wonderful potato pancakes you ever et. If you're going savory, add some fresh reggiano. But take them to the sweet side by adding some sugar, deep fry, coat with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar for little donuts so light and airy that in France they call them pets de nonne (nun's farts!).
I'll post Donna's lovely pix below but I'm sorry that I use a standing mixer in the pix because you only need a spoon to stir in the eggs (or I saw Giada use an electric beater like a good, aproned housefrau—those work fine too but one spoon and one pot are easier to clean). Use a standing mixer for large batches.
Here's the technique: Bring the butter and water to a simmer (I've already told you how much; remember that large eggs are 2 ounces). Add the flour and stir till the flour absorbs the water and begins to gel (this is the cool part, turning the flour into this paste). Take the pot off the flame and add the eggs one at a time, stirring until each is completely incorporated. Then you're done. You can do this hours ahead if you want (though again, it only takes five minutes, if that).
Notes on nuance, variations, and more fun things to do (like trying it with semolina flour!) are in the new book, but know the ratio—2 parts water, 1 part butter, 1 part flour, 2 parts egg in that order—and the technique and you're good to go.
Stir flour into simmering buttered water.
Pay attention to the way the flour absorbs the water. Stir over heat till it pulls away from the sides of the pan (see first photo).
Take pan off heat and stir in eggs. You don't need to use an expensive mixer as I was doing here; a wood spoon works great.
This is the kind of furry consistency you want.
Pipe them, tap their little peaks down, and bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 375 for 20 more minutes till they look like this:
Lovely snack. If you were a gougere virgin, open champagne and eat them with that.
These are the farts of nuns (deep fried and dusted with sugar).
and these are parisian gnocchi, shaped by piping, dragging a fork along the top, and cutting, or you could pipe using a star tip. Or you can just use a spoon.
One technique, a thousand variations.