Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cheese Flops

When I first bit into a gougères, a savory French cheese puff, at Tartine in SF, I wondered, "Where have you been all my life?" The treats are crisp on the outside, puffy on the inside and infused with fresh thyme and gruyere.

I was delighted to learn later that Fraiche in Culver City baked their own gougères and even served their hamburgers on the puffy buns.

But, alas, I discovered during my September visit that Fraiche no longer bakes or serves the bread.

"Where can I buy fresh gougères?" I asked the Food Librarian, who had just posted about the perfect puffs she made at home.

"In your own kitchen," she wrote back.

I was about to pop open a bottle of champagne I'd been saving and decided that gougères would be the perfect accompaniment.

I turned to the master source, the Tartine cookbook that I had purchased during a recent visit to the venerable bakery. I'd no longer have to journey to SF to sink my choppers into a gougères.

But this beautiful cookbook was not a fit for baking-challenged moi. The ingredients and directions were listed on two different pages and I had to keep flipping back and forth. The directions were written in long, narrative paragraphs, not bullet points. And the directions left some confusion. (It said to stir in the flour. Should I turn off the flame first or keep it on high?) They didn't say, so I guessed wrong and turned off the flame.

Perhaps that's why my puffs were a flop, as flat as giant buttons. But that didn't stop friends and family from asking, "Are there more?" I baked up tray after tray of the flops, and they greedily ate them.

Just imagine how gaga they'll go over a gougères done right. (Next time I'll follow Tartine-loving Jen's instructions on Oishii Eats.)

(PS It may be a while before I can bake up another batch of gougères. I broke a hip, had pin surgery and will be hobbling about on a walker for a few weeks.)