Much like Oprah, I LOVE bread. In fact, I’d argue that my day begins and ends with carbs of some sort, typically peanut butter toast for breakfast, and cookies for dessert, although I’m trying to cut back on the cookie consumption. In between those two meals, I’d estimate I consume bread in some way, shape, or form at least a few more times, much to the dismay of my waistline.
I’m so obsessed with the bread that when I’m traveling, I’ve been known to choose a restaurant based solely on Yelp reviews which described customary piping hot popovers with salted, smoked butter, being delivered to tables prior to the main course.
I am not a bread baker by nature. I don’t have the patience for yeasted, perfectly molded loaves of sourdough. I’ve screwed up homemade brioche more times than I can count. And I certainly can’t perfect the crusty exterior of a French baguette.
However, there are certain things I can do when it comes to bread. I can make perfectly tall and flaky biscuits. I have mastered the quick-cooking soft pretzel. And I have made cheese puffs more times than I can count, contrary to my brioche failures.
Cheese puffs, or gougères, as they call them in France, may seem daunting at first glance, but I find them to be one of the easier pastries to assemble. Typically, you find them laced with gruyere, but I’ve been trying to come up with unique ways to utilize the basil in my backyard that’s been growing like a weed, so I thought it would be perfectly suited in a classic cheese puff.
The pesto is a simpler version of the classic recipe, I included the basil (obviously), lemon juice, salt, parmesan, and olive oil, but omitted the pine nuts and garlic, for a more dominant basil flavor.
I really didn’t want the pesto to completely turn the color of the dough green, so what I did was make the gougères batter completely, and then right before spooning the dough on to parchment paper, I gently stirred the pesto in, creating an almost ribbon-like effect.
I ate them as is, straight out of the oven, but they would be delicious slathered with salted butter, and would even be a great vessel for a mini ham and cheese sandwich.
- 1 cup basil
- ¼ cup + 1 Tlbs water
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
- ¾ tsp. salt, divided
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tlbs olive oil
- 7 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup flour
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a small food processor, add basil, 1 Tlbs water, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ¼ tsp. salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until mixture is pureed, scraping down sides as necessary. Add olive oil, and pulse again until combined. Set aside
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place remaining water, butter, milk, and salt into a medium saucepan. Melt butter over medium high heat. When milk mixture has become scalding hot, add flour in all at once. Stir over medium heat until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of pan and becomes a smooth and cohesive.
- Take the pan off the heat and let cool for one minute. Add eggs, one at a time, while vigorously stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not add another egg, until previous one is completely mixed in. Work fast so you don't cook the eggs. Mix on medium speed and eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. The dough should be smooth and glossy.
- Right before forming puffs, add pesto to the mixture, GENTLY, stir it in creating a ribbon-like effect of pesto throughout the dough, don't fully incorporate it!
- Use a spoon to form dough into 2 tablespoon mounds. Line up on a baking sheet.
- Place in the oven, and then turn temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed.