Which came first, the reader/writer or the cook?
Some days I think it’s the former. I was a voracious reader growing up and still am. I’d have my nose buried in a Babysitter’s Club while vacationing in Hawaii, preferring preteen drama over boiling magma. When I worked in the far reaches of East Williamsburg, I’d spend my 10-minute walk from the subway staring at my Kindle, stepping over broken glass and ignoring honking truck drivers.
But maybe I was a cook first? In elementary school, I wanted DIY lunches like Lunchables and tuna salad kits, even if my classmates found me weird. In high school, I was sent to the principal’s office for using a George Foreman grill in the cafeteria.
But it’s dishes like these that prove I’m a little bit of both. I was thinking about cream puffs and their French dough, pâte à choux, meaning cabbage pastry. Literally… cabbage! This is the same dough that’s used for sweets like éclairs, profiteroles and savories like gougères.
Once I’m fascinated by words and food, I’m off to the races. I immediately thought of cabbage’s versatile cousin, the cauliflower, and then the cauliflower gougère was born.
I love these because the cauliflower is perfectly tender -- enough bite to give the rich gougère some texture and freshness, but supple enough to melt with the buttery, cheesy dough. See? It pays to be a bookworm.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
½ cup water
3 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
½ cup flour
2 large eggs
⅜ cup grated Gruyère
⅜ cup cauliflower rice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix water, butter, salt and pepper in saucepan. Heat on medium until butter is melted. Add flour all at once, then mix until well incorporated and the dough pulls from the side of the saucepan. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time. Mix them immediately so the eggs don’t cook. Mix until there are no more lumps, about 2 minutes (or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Add cheese and cauliflower and mix until incorporated.
Using hands, form small balls of dough and place on baking sheet. When done, clean the dough off your hands. Keeping hands wet, smooth out the gougères so they are nice and rounded off.
Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then lower to 375. Bake for 15-20 minutes, when they are just starting to get color. Remove tray from the oven and create a small slit in the side of each gougère with a sharp knife. Return tray to oven and bake for another 5 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
TIPS & TRICKS
Don’t want to buy cauliflower rice? Good for you! It’s easy to make. Just add cauliflower to your blender with enough water to cover it. Pulse on its highest speed until you get the consistency you want. Then drain the cauliflower.
Typically gougères are piped using a pastry bag. The cauliflower rice makes the dough a bit less fluid, so I opted to use my hands instead. But if you want these to look perfect, feel free to use a pastry bag with the largest tip or no tip at all.
Why puncture the side? This allows steam to exit -- extra important because we’re using moist cauliflower rice -- resulting in a crisp exterior.