Gougères.

In Australia, summer inevitably means cricket and cricket means I must share Boy Robin with what seem like endless games (both watching on tv and playing himself).

I can’t say I enjoy cricket.  I understand the rules enough to follow the game, but it seems that I watch for aaages while nothing happens, only to turn around to talk to someone at the very instant something interesting happens. And then, get in trouble for talking at a crucial moment.

However, one thing I can get behind is the food breaks.  I like that afternoon tea is considered important enough to have its own scheduled break (not to mention I just like afternoon tea).

I don’t watch Boy Robin play cricket (I did it once and once was enough for me).  However, if he is playing a home game, I drop in with some afternoon tea.  Gougères are my go to – quick, easy and super tasty.

Gougères

Gougères

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 113g butter, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp seasoning (I usually add garlic chives), plus salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C with a rack in the top third.  Line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Bring the beer, milk, butter and salt to boil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat, add both the flours and stir like crazy. The dough will eventually come together smoothly and give a nice, toasty scent.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in your seasoning. At this stage, I usually add some freshly ground salt and pepper as well, but it’s not essential. Even if you decide not to add any seasoning, still stir occasionally for 5 minutes or so to let the heat out (I find it takes much longer on warm days). You don’t want the dough to cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Once the dough has cooled, work the eggs into the dough one at a time. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir through.
  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon sized amounts onto the baking trays, leaving a few centimetres between each. I usually manage to fit 12 or so onto each tray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the gougères.
  7. Put 1 tray into the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190C and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. The gougères should be a deep, golden brown colour all over, puffed up and well set (no soggy bottoms). Transfer the gougères onto a rack to cool.
  8. Bring the oven temperature back up to 220C before baking the second tray the same as the first. I find that now the oven has warmed up a bit, the second tray bakes a tad quicker, so keep an eye on it.

¡Buen provecho!

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Caramel walnut loaf.

Last Wednesday night, I was home alone and desperately in need of dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth.  It was one of those rare moments that chocolate would not cut it.  Despite it being officially Spring, there was a Winter chill in the air and our little apartment was practically begging me to use the oven to warm it up, both in temperature and ambience (nothing warms up our apartment like the smell of freshly baked goods).

My former house mate is truly a kitchen goddess, making up recipes as she goes along and whipping up muffins, cakes and other sweet treats just about every weekend.  I am not very adventurous on the kitchen front.  I spend too much time poring over the recipe, measuring everything to the n-th degree and setting the timer rather than my house mate’s style of just going with what seems right by using her eye and taste.  I much preferred eating the produce of my former house mate’s forays into the kitchen than attempting to creating them myself.  Plus, it always tastes better when someone else bakes it.

This caramel walnut loaf, however, is simple enough to whip up on a Wednesday evening, without even the slightest pinch of apprehension and still have time to finish the dishes and curl up on the couch for a little Wednesday night tv viewing (Adam Hills, how I adore you).

No special equipment is required – just a saucepan, a wooden spoon and 9.5 x 20 cm (ish – a little bigger or smaller will not make a difference) loaf tin.  You could ice it after it cools, but I like it on its own – the sweetness of the caramel balanced quite nicely by the walnuts.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Caramel walnut loaf

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 75g (1 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170oC.  Grease the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with one piece of baking paper, allowing it to overhang the sides.
  2. Place the butter, brown sugar and milk in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the butter is just melted and remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the egg and walnuts.  Add the flour and stir until just combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Stand for five minutes before turning it out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Serve with your hot drink of choice.  Also works well as breakfast.