Monday, November 5, 2012

Walnut Gougères

I'm a huge fan of the homemade gift, both because it's personal and it's economical. I know that I always loved homemade fudge or cookies from a friend's family, and I love seeing the looks of joy on people's faces when they're presented with something homemade just for them. Homemade gifts are also practical not just for the recipient (who won't go through a cookie or two?) but for the budget too. Even a recipe with more "extravagant" ingredients than you'd usually use (good, cultured butter, nuts and quality chocolate, full flavoured cheeses, vanilla beans, even the occasional drop of alcohol) can make a lot of gift bags, taste better and come in at far less than buying all those gifts! This goes double if you're going to a holiday party or potluck (we have at least two every year) - anyone can go buy a bottle of wine, but if you offer to bring an appetizer or treat for the sweet table? You'll be loved by everyone there!

If you decide that delicious homemade gifts are the way to go, first create a basic list of recipes that will suit multiple people first, to help ease the burden of multiple cooking days! Recipes that you know off by heart (like my mom's shortbreads) or are simple to "whip up" (like cake / cookie balls) are good to start with and are usually easy to make with what's already in the pantry.  If you're used to doing to mass food-gift frenzy (like I am!), why not bring a fresh twist to the favourites? 

When the California Walnut Commission (@CaWalnuts) contacted me about sharing some of their wholesome, delicious giftable goodies for the holiday season, I was spoiled for choice! These are just some of the savoury treats the #CaWalnuts folks are offering up for you to bring a homemade touch to the party. Each is packed with the delicious and nutrient-rich goodness of California walnuts, are easy to make and can be pre-prepped and frozen for convenience and safe storage:

Walnut Gougères Great for freezing and to have on hand as festive hors d’oeuvres:
A classic French cheese puff with the tasteful addition of delicate walnut crumbs. These versatile mini delights make for impressive hors d’oeuvres or the perfect accompaniment to a wine tasting.

Walnut Arroz Con PolloA perfect hostess gift or contribution to a holiday pot luck!
A wholesome, Spanish-inspired recipe, Walnut Arroz Con Pollo is a delicious, hearty one-pot wonder meal perfect for all occasions.

Walnut Cannelloni – These freeze well and can be made in larger batches too.
This meat-free entrée is a delicious indulgence and the addition of walnuts adds flavour, crunch and protein.

The first treat I wanted to make was something I've always wanted to do but never had the occasion to: gougères! I played around a bit with the original recipe as I scaled it back, opting for extra old white Cheddar and chipotle chili pepper in place of the cayenne. I tried making the puffs two different ways - first with "fresh" dough, then after piping them out and freezing them until I needed them. I have to admit that I liked the texture of the "baked-from-frozen" ones better, but I found that the baking method needed tweaking regardless. My updated version is after the jump!

Walnut Gougères
Adapted, with many thanks, from the California Walnut Commission
Makes 24
½ cup water
3 tbsp butter, salted
½ cup all purpose flour, sifted
Pinch dry mustard
Pinch nutmeg
Big pinch chipotle chili pepper
2 large eggs
75 g California Walnut crumbs
2 tbsp minced chives
200 g Extra-old Cheddar (either white or yellow), finely grated
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add cup of water and butter and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add flour, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne, stirring constantly to cook the paste, about 3 minutes.
  4. Remove paste from heat and transfer mixture into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  5. Mixing on medium-low speed, add eggs, one at a time, ensuring each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  6. Gently fold in walnuts, chives and cheese by hand.
  7. Scoop mixture into a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe small bite sized mounds 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Optional: at this point, you can freeze gougères, transfer to a zip-top bag and bake as needed:
    • Preheat your oven to 400°F degrees, place frozen gougères 2” apart on lines sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 15 minutes.
  • If baking from fresh: bake in the centre oven rack for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F  and bake a further 12 minutes, until golden brown. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 82.8
Total Fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 28.0 mg
Sodium: 67.9 mg
Total Carbs: 2.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 3.4 g

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