Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Waiting for sunshine.

It's the first day of June, and I'm beginning to wonder if summer will ever come at all.  Usually this time of year, I'm getting ready to bare my pasty legs and slather on the sunscreen and attend barbeques.  Instead, today's high hit the mid-60s, and the forecast for the next couple of days include rain.  I feel like a broken record each day as I lament the weather, hoping for sunshine and warmth.  But they never come.  Funny how I remember anticipating colder weather some months back, and that wish has certainly been fulfilled.  

But what this enduring chilly weather also makes me think of is how we look for change as benchmarks in life.  A change in season not only refers to the weather, but it can signify progress or growth, or maybe even putting things behind us in hopes of something new or better another day.  The Byrds (I always thought it was the Beatles!) sing of it, taken literally from Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, referring to different times for different phases in life, but, ultimately, the verses speak to God's goodness and gift of fulfillment to us as human beings, as every time has its purpose.  As with some life seasons, I continue to wait for change, a break in the weather, but I know that there will likely be a day--probably some blazing hot summer day in the future--when I will long for a day like today. 

I recently baked gougères as appetizers for a potluck gathering.  I've wanted to try something from Julia Child, but many of her recipes require much preparation and time (and skill), though her directions are thorough and clear.  These, however, were surprisingly easy and quick to make, since they are essentially savory pâte à choux, and her recipe yielded compliment-inducing results.  Warm, cheesy, and flaky, they were like a little bit of sunshine in the midst of some drab weather.        

Adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1

Makes approximately 30 1-1/2 inch puffs

Preheat oven to 425F degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

1.  Boil together in saucepan:
- 1 c. water
- 3/4 stick of unsalted butter (or 6 T.), cut in cubes
- 1 t. salt
- 1/8 t. pepper
- dash of ground nutmeg

2.  Remove the saucepan from heat, and beat in the following with a wooden spoon:
- 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

3.  After flour has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture over medium high heat for 1 or 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a mass and you see a film on the bottom of the saucepan.

4.  Remove the saucepan from heat again, and hollow out the center of the mass.  Add the following, one at a time, into the center and beat dough until the egg is incorporated.  Repeat process for each egg.
- 4 large eggs

5.  Add the following into the paste:
- 1 cup grated Swiss and/or gruyere cheese
- 1 T. finely chopped chives (optional)

6.  Spoon 1 inch mounds, about 1-1/2 inches apart, on the baking sheet.  

7.  Brush each mound with a mixture of:
- 1 egg
- 1/2 t. water

8.  Bake in oven for about 20 min.  If baking two sheets at a time, rotate sheets halfway through the baking time.  The gougeres should puff up, with a golden brown firm crust, when done.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.