This recipe was inspired from this past year’s American Raw Milk Cheese Tasting. For the fourth and final course, we were tasting Bonnie Blue cheese from Bonnieview Farm in Vermont. I needed something sweet that would complement this slice of blue without obscuring its flavor profile. The art of pairing comes down to reflecting on the essence of the cheese as it stands alone and then seeking flavor and texture combinations which highlight and promote the cheese’s individual characteristics. The last thing I wanted at a tasting event was to obscure the cheese through overt dessert pairings that coat the tongue and leave the taster in a dessert oblivion.
Mascarpone. Gougères. Salty Caramel. Poached Pear. Light flecks of Maldon Salt matched the blue cheese, the poached pear provided a smooth, subtle, velvety sweetness. The bright and lemony mascarpone cleansed the palate.
I recommend enjoying this recipe with a slice of your favorite blue cheese, but it is also wonderful sans fromage- for an indulgent weekend breakfast or a light after dinner dessert. Sparkling white and sparkling rose wines pair exceptionally with the entire plating.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Table salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (flaky salt)
- POACHED PEAR
- 3 small, firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled
- 1.5 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 lemon zest, peeled into strips and then juiced
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 vanilla bean
Prepare your pears and place all ingredients into a small saucepan. Add as much water as needed to cover the pears. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove pears with a slotted spoon, place in a shallow baking dish, and reduce the syrup by boiling it for another 40 minutes. Pour the syrup over the pears. Cool to room temp. B You can keep the pears refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 400º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the dough into a bowl; let cool for 1 minute. Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip and pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a spoon or a ziplock bag with the tip cut off.
Bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Let cool to room temp, and then fill your pastry or ziploc bag with mascarpone. Cut a slit into the side or bottom of each gougère so that you can fit the mascarpone bag tip inside. Fill the gougère with as much mascarpone as possible. I like the look of a little oozing out.
Make the caramel: Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, without stirring, until caramel turns dark amber, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, and set saucepan in ice-water bath to stop sugar from cooking. Immediately dip the top of each gougère into caramel, and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt. (If the caramel hardens as you work, reheat over very low heat until it loosens.)
Plate the poached pear and gougère, and ENJOY!