I wanted to do a large gougère filled with whatever as a main course. Then my mind went into creativity mode. I got lazy and started to think pizza. A nice dish requires a nobler base. I created a gougère topped with a béchamel of button and dry porcini mushrooms. It can be had as a starter or as a main course served with a salad.
A gougère is choux pastry with cheese. The best cheese to use for choux pastry is, in my view, Gruyère or Emmental. No luck because all I have is mild cheddar and parmesan cheese. I must say the local cheddar cheese, in Kenya, is good. However, cheddar seems to have a higher moisture content than Gruyère and the like which is not so desirable to incorporate in choux pastry.
Making choux pastry is a necessary skill to have in French cookery and for some sadistic reason I am always thrill when I incorporate the first egg into the mass. I repeat, only the first egg. One litre of water requires 16 eggs and to incorporate 16 eggs in a mass is a tiring job by hand.
Yes, of course, you can do all that with a machine. French cooking schools are not so benevolent and I do believe that chefs sadistically enjoy looking at student’s cramping arms after cracking the 16th egg for choux pastry. I don’t cry in the kitchen, I use my masochistic side to enjoy any process. Looking back, the sadomasochistic relationship with the kitchen is not so bad if you have a culinary passion.
The steps are as follows; making the gougère, bechamel sauce with mushrooms and the assembly. The recipe is for 4 to 6 portions and can be done in less than hour. Please, relax, making the choux pastry is not so difficult after all.
Making the Gougère
Making choux pastry is like moving back and forth. So, have a pot and a bowl readily available. Have all your ingredients, mise-en-place, in the correct measures on your kitchen counter.
- 50 gr butter, cubed and not too cold
- 120 gr sifted flour
- 3 eggs
- 100 gr, preferably, of grated Gruyère or Emmental cheese. In my case I used 100 gr of an equal mix of mild cheddar and parmesan cheese.
- Put the water and butter in a pot
- At soon as it boils, fusion, remove the pot from the heat and add at once the flour and mix
- Put back the pot on the heat and let the mass dry a little, it will come off the side of the pot and leave a small film at the bottom. This process should take one minute.
- Transfer the mass to a bowl. Let it slightly cool and add the eggs one by one mixing with a wooden spoon or a spatula until fully absorbed. This stage can be done, if you have, with a mixer … but for 3 eggs hmmmm!
- Add ¾ of the cheese and finish mixing.
- Using a pastry bag, pipe the mass into a small tart mold. Make the border higher like in a deep pan pizza. This process can be done by hand with a spoon for a rustic look.
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top
- Place in a 200 Celsius oven for 30 minutes or until the gougère is nicely colored and cooked.
Making the Gougère topping
The topping consist of a béchamel sauce mixed with button and dry porcini mushroom. I bought the dry porcini mushrooms at Zucchini in ABC Place but they are also available at Chandarana Supermarkets.
- 250 gr of button mushrooms, quartered and leaving a few small ones whole
- 10 gr of dry porcini
- 1 small onion or half a medium onion
- Butter. I have a fondness for ghee which is clarified butter but butter can do.
- Put the dry porcini in 100 ml of boiling water and let rest for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the water and keep it aside. Chop the now soft porcini mushrooms
- Fry the onions in minimum butter until soft
- Add the button mushrooms and when almost done add the porcini mushrooms bits. Finish cooking until done. Keep aside until your bechamel is ready.
I know it is lots of ingredients but it is really easy.
- 30 gr butter
- 30 gr flour
- 300 ml of milk combined with porcini water
- 2 pepper corn
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 grain of all spice
- ½ a small onion
- 1 whole clove
- 1 small garlic clove crushed
- Salt to taste
- Make a roux with 30 gr butter and 30 gr flour. Melt the butter, add the flour and mix until it frosts and cook for about 2 minutes under low heat. Let the mixture cool
- Add milk to the porcini water to make 300 ml and the peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, allspice, onion, clove and garlic. Let infuse to the boiling point.
- When the infused milk mixture boils, slowly pour it on the cooled roux and mix until it thickens and reach the desired consistency of a sauce. Add salt to taste. The sauce should thickly coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the cooked mushrooms into the sauce and adjust with salt if needed.
Assembling the dish
Pour the béchamel mushroom sauce on top of the gougère and serve.