Saturday, August 17, 2013

Snackies Volume I

Granted, snacks such as these are usually found as cocktail party fare, but not lately in our house. The little one is quite fond of snacks, and unfortunately she is growing out of being content with a little bowl of black beans for one. Her tastes, not so surprisingly, seem to mirror mine, and these are a couple (of many) of my favorite snackies to have around the house. 

Who doesn't love mixed nuts? And gougères, aka crisp yet melt in your mouth cheese balls, are so addicting you will be slightly unnerved once you see how many you can house down.
These are also perfect to make in advance. The nuts keep well in an airtight container for up to a week, and the gougères can be frozen. Just 5 minutes in a 350* oven does the trick. 

Spiced Nuts


1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
or 3 cups of any combination of nuts you prefer, as long as they are roasted, not raw
2 egg whites, beaten till very frothy and slightly stiff
1.5 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground rosemary or 1 Tbsp finely chopped 
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
pinch of cayenne, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350* and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.

 Add the spices to the beaten egg whites and gently fold them in thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Add the nuts and gently stir, ensuring they all get evenly coated. Spread them out evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before placing them in serving dish, or storage container. Let cool completely before covering to store. 

Gougères by Alain Ducasse


1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 cup AP flour
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese, plus extra for
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400*. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. In a medium saucepan, combine water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and stir it in well. Turn heat to low and keep stirring the dough till it begins to pull away from the pan and leave a bit of a film behind, around 2 minutes.

Place the dough in a large glass bowl and let cool for about a minute. Beat the eggs into the dough one at a time, ensuring each one is completely amalgamated before adding the next. The dough will look pretty off putting after you initially add an egg, but don't worry- just keep stirring and it comes together to form a beautifully satiny batter. Add the cheese and a pinch of pepper and nutmeg.

You can transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round or star tip and pipe tablespoon size mounds onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart or simply scoop the batter out with a tablespoon and drop them onto the baking sheets. Either way, they turn out beautiful and delicious. Sprinkle with some cheese and bake for ~22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately. 

If you are making them ahead, bake them for only about 20 minutes so they aren't quite completely golden brown. Allow to cool and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Empty the sheet into a freezer bag. Keeps well for a month.

Alain Ducasse's Gougères from Food and Wine
All photos by Renee Hendrix

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