Ah, snow. It may be cold and wet and make your toes go slightly numb when you are walking down the road with a hole in your boot, but it has its uses. For instance, today, I am at home. Living thirty miles away from the office has its uses too - especially when no one you work with lives in the same sort of direction as you.
In fairness, the roads are terrible and that's even if you manage to get out of our car park - D has helped to dig several cars out today. And the station is a mile trudge down icy streets. So I didn't have to exaggerate much when I phoned in. And I've used the time wisely - a lie-in followed by a session in the kitchen making some gorgeous smelling Christmas chutney and a loaf of banana bread.
Today I'm going to give an early Christmas present which is a foolproof recipe for the best canape in the world, ever. Gougeres are basically puffs of cheesy choux pastry - but despite the fact that they look incredibly impressive (homemade pastry always has that effect on people) they are a cinch to make. Having this recipe up your sleeve means that whenever you decide to throw an impromptu Christmas cocktail party you will never be without a nibble for your guests. These are cheesy footballs par excellence (was mine the only household that bought a tub of those things every Christmas, despite the fact that nobody seemed to like them...?)
Oh, and I've even put them through the WW recipe builder, in case you're the type of person who not only throws impromptu Christmas cocktail parties, but likes to be true to their diet while in the midst of them. These are a mere point each - although I defy you to limit yourself to just the one!
125ml milk (skimmed works absolutely fine)
100g butter, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
150g plain flour
4 medium eggs
100g Gruyere cheese, grated
pinch of cayenne pepper
small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
paprika for dusting (optional)
Makes 50, 1 pro point each
Combine the milk, 125ml water, the butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and set over a low heat. Bring to the boil and then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Add the flour and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Return the pan to a medium heat for about 1 minutes, stirring, to dry out the paste. It is ready when it all comes away from the sides to form a ball in the middle of the pan. Tip into a bowl and allow to cool for a minute.
Add the eggs one by one, beating with the wooden spoon. At first, you will have a mixture that vaguely resembles baby sick (sorry!) and doesn't seem to want to come together - but persevere. Eventually you will have a smooth, shiny paste. At this point, tip in three quarters of the grated cheese, the cayenne and the nutmeg. You can make the mixture a couple of hours in advance up to this stage. To prevent a crust from forming cover with clingfilm, allowing the clingfilm to sit on the surface of the choux pastry like skin.
Most recipes would now tell you to transfer this mixture to a piping bag - but I've found that there is absolutely no need. Line some baking trays with parchment paper and use a teaspoon to blob the mixture onto the trays, well spaced apart as they will puff up in the oven. Sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.
Bake at 200 degrees C for 15-20 minutes until the little buns are dry and crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. Dust with paprika before serving.
This recipe is taken from "Eggs" by Michel Roux - an amazing book that is well worth getting if you like, um, eggs.