Gougere -- a cheese bread to warm hungry skiers

The food from the province of Burgundy is known for being at once powerful and delicate, created for healthy appetites and strong stomachs. The beef from Charolais, the chickens of Bresse, the snails that feed on grape leaves in Burgundy, and the pungent mustard of Dijon all contribute to the region's robust cuisine.

La gougere is a Burgundian cheese bread, characteristic of the cooking in this region of plentiful and hearty food.

Gougere would be great to make after a day of skiing, because it is a heavy, filling bread that satisfies hunger quickly. The combination of the bread and cheese baking in the oven creates a wonderful aroma.

It is an easy bread to make, that is, if you find easy the technique used in preparing pate a choux, or cream puffs.

The puff paste is a thick white sauce of flour, water, seasonings, and butter , into which eggs are beaten. Eggs make the paste swell as it bakes.

To make a good gougere you need stamina, because vigorous beating is necessary to mix the eggs into the paste.

The cheeses in gougere can be varied according to taste, and depending on what you may have on hand at the time. Swiss-type cheeses, with their distinctive holes or eyes and sweetish, nutty taste, are recommended.

Emmentaler, the original Swiss cheese, with large eyes and a smooth, amber natural rind, has a mellow, nutty taste. It is milder and less salty than Gruyere.

Gruyere has a rough, brown, natural rind and small holes. The older the cheese, the fuller and richer tasting it is.

Even more flavorful is Appenzeller, which has a brown and crinkly rind, small eyes, and a strong aroma. Appenzeller tastes sharp and slightly bitter, but it is creamier and more moist than Emmentaler and Gruyere.

Use a combination of each of the three Swiss cheeses in the gougere, or substitute 1/2 Emmentaler and 1/2 Gruyere or 3/4 Emmentaler and 1/4 Appenzeller.

Gougere 1 cup chicken stock or 1/2 cup water and 1/2 milk 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, in small pieces Salt Pepper 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated 1 cup flour 4 eggs 1 cup Swiss cheeses, grated, see above 1 egg yolk 3 tablespoons milk or cream

Place stock, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil and gently boil until butter has melted. Remove from heat.

Add flour all at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spatula or spoon for a few seconds to blend thoroughly. Return to heat and dry dough over a high flame. To dry, mix continuously until it comes away easily from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, and butter starts oozing from it.

Remove pan from heat. Make a well in center of dough, break an egg into it and beat. Beat in remaining eggs one at a time. The third and fourth eggs will be absorbed more slowly. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. and beat it in. The dough should be thick, smooth, and shiny.

Butter a cookie sheet well. With a tablespoon, scoop out pieces of dough, each the size of an egg. Arrange them one next to the other in a circle.Smooth circle on top and around inside with back of spoon.

Combine egg yolk and milk to make a dorure, or egg-wash. Brush top with the dorure. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake 375 degrees F. for 35 to 40 minutes.

Larousse Gastronomique notes that "the more usual way to serve gougere is cold, but it may also be served hot as hors d'oeuvre." If you have a skier's appetite, it probably won't get a chance to cool.

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