I mentioned in a previous post that we were lucky enough to visit France again last year.
For those who know me, and those who’ve been reading my blog for a while, my love of France is evident. It is therefore no surprise that each and every opportunity hubby and I get we try experience a little bit of the French je ne sais quoi.
Last September our travels took us to the region of Burgundy.
The small city of Dijon, which we used as our base, is about 2 hours from Paris if you travel by train. It took me all of the walk from the train station to our amazing little Airbnb to fall in love with the city! I absolutely love the Gothic and medieval architecture – think old wooden timber framed homes, chimneys peeking out of old roofs that seems to hold centuries worth of secrets.
Our apartment was located in one of the oldest streets in Dijon, Rue Verrerie. It had a tiny balcony overlooking another beautiful timber structured home. The tiles on the roof seemed ancient, with moss growing in little patches. Sitting at eye level with the roof, watching dusk fall and the full moon rise, the chimneys stood with grace worthy of their age, in stark contrast to the night sky. Sitting quietly, drinking in the scene around us, it was not difficult to imagine what it might have been like in medieval times.
Being known for the wonderful wines, cheeses and of course the food, Dijon and indeed Burgundy have so much to offer. Think French classics like Beef bourguignon, Coq au Vin, Les escargots and of course Moutarde de Dijon or Dijon mustard, although the latter is now actually produced with mustard seeds from Canada! And not only will you find sustenance for your body. There is plenty for the soul. The countryside is mesmerizing. Lush rolling hills covered with green vineyards, grass and the ever present Charolais cattle. Hubby had to stop numerous times along small country roads for me to get out, breathe the scene in and take a picture – my way of trying to hold on to the memories!
And don’t forget the people. So welcoming and willing to share their love for French food and wine.
In the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges we stopped at a wine cave for some wine tasting. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned out to be a real insight into the wine merchant, Alexander’s view on wine, food and what attracts so many people to France. We had a lovely time with him and ended up leaving him with an invitation to come visit us at home in Cape Town in the event that his travels ever take him our way.
So, who else want gougères inspired by our trip? Let me tell you – YOU do!
As we travelled around Dijon, hubby and I picked up some of the traditional dishes that we were not so familiar with. One of these regional specialities were wonderful little pillows of air and cheese, called gougères. While it translates to cheese puffs, doesn’t gougères just sound so much better?!
Traditionally these bite sized snacks are served with wine tastings in Burgundy, and it took only one bite for me to be hooked. On the day we explored Dijon, we visited Les Halles Centrales de Dijon and I spotted freshly baked ones at one of the stalls. We bought a bag full and explored the famous Dijon Owl trail, snaking away!
Since we’ve been back at home, I have made so many batches that I’ve lost count! There is not much effort involved in making them at all and it is a fantastic little snack to serve with an aperitif of your choice or just as a starter. Apart from all their crispy, cheesy yumminess I think it’s the satisfaction of making something enjoyable for friends and family that has made this a real go-to for me whenever we have people over these days.
That, plus the fact that they just seem to disappear off the table the minute I put them down!
- 250ml milk
- 100g butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 150g all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 70g Comté, cut into cubes (You can also use Gruyère, some mature cheddar, Parmesan, or even a mix of cheeses. I’ve used half and half Gruyère and Parmesan previously and it worked great. You can buy a little extra and grate it, to sprinkle over the top later.)
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Step 2 Add the milk, butter and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Step 3 Turn the heat down low and add the flour. Stir the mixture until it leaves the sides of the saucepan and it forms a ball. This should take no longer than 5 minutes. Then leave the mixture to cool down a bit. I usually wait about 5 minutes. (I also take the mixture out of the pan at this stage to quicken the cooling process.)
- Step 4 Once cooled, beat the eggs into the mixture one by one. (If you have a mixer, by all means do this using a mixer. I don’t have one, so I normally put hubby up to the task of ensuring that the mixture is nice and smooth!)
- Step 5 Add the blocks of cheese to the mixture and make sure that it is evenly stirred in.
- Step 6 Line your baking sheet with some baking paper.
- Step 7 You can either add the mixture to a piping bag and pipe your gougères or if you are not feeling confident, use two tablespoons to spoon them on to the baking tray. (Leave about 1.5 cm between each gougère.)
- Step 8 Brush the gougères with an egg yolk and sprinkle with some grated cheese.
- Step 9 Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and crispy.
To me there is nothing better than having them shortly after they come out of the oven. Crispy, still a bit warm and utterly delicious. While I have always made mine the same day, I have been told that you can actually make the batter ahead of time and freeze it for when you need it.
You follow the same method, spooning or piping your gougères onto a baking sheet. After that is done, you cover them with a bit of parchment paper or cling film and place them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can take them off the baking sheet and place them in a freezer bag to keep, ready for the opportune moment to make some! When the time arrives, you can bake them from frozen. Heat your oven to 230°C and bake for an initial 5 minutes. Then lower your oven to 175°C and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes and I believe they will turn out just as great.
Have you given it a try? How did it come out? Let me know!