Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gruyere Gougeres (AKA Fancy Cheese Puffs)

So, this is the secret to looking impressive while making really simple things: good ingredients. Seriously.

For our wine and cheese party, I chose gruyere as my cheese. Gruyere is a hard, yellow Swiss cheese often used for fondue. Fondue was my original choice until I envisioned a pot of fondue spilled in my car while I drive through tunnels to get to Ashleigh's house. At that point, I hit the Google machine for other gruyere ideas and came upon David Lebovitz's recipe for gougeres.

Like any good French cook, I got my ingredients mis en place, or "everything in place." Water, butter, flour, grated gruyere and chives.

I melted the butter with the water, salt and pepper and stirred until mixed, then dumped in the entire 1/2 cup of flour.

I stirred the mixture until it formed a paste. I will say right now that I don't think I stirred it enough, as you will see.

I removed the mixture from heat and added one egg and a time, stirring vigorously to mix well.

Then added the cheese and chives.

And continued to mix until I was confident it was relatively well-mixed.

I believe the key to gougeres is a pastry bag to properly dispense the dough. Having none, I dumped it in a plastic bag and trimmed the end of a corner. Voila!

But I think I still wasn't quite getting the concept. I can say this in hindsight, having seen the finished product. The directions I read called for ping-pong size balls, but I can say now that those are clearly not ping-pong ball size. Also, I will note for you what no one noted for me: You cannot roll this in your hands. That would be very silly.

Bake them at 425 for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the gougeres are golden brown.

So. This is what mine looked like. Real quick, go click on the link and look at David's, then come back to mine. I'll wait.

Okay, so you looked? Right. I made not gougeres, but something like a gougere biscuit cookie cracker thing. SIGH. Defeated by the French again.

So for my second batch, I tried piling my dough a little higher.

And ended up with more biscuity thingies.

Obviously, this merits another attempt, because I'm now determined to master French pastries. But I will tell you this much: don't let my failure to puff scare you off. These taste AMAZING, puffed or not, and my wine club gals were all over them. Also, bring these as an appetizer to your next get-together and you will be mobbed with questions about how you did it. Just be sure to practice your pronunciation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wino Wednesday: Wine + Cheese

After a fairly lengthy hiatus due to a plethora of weddings this summer, wine club kicked off fall last week with our first wine and cheese pairing. It was delicious, even though we all felt pretty gluttonous afterward. My cheese offering was gruyere gougieres, a recipe I'll post tomorrow. It's the cheese biscuit you see in the above picture (even though it was definitely supposed to be a cheese puff).

Above, you see colby, muenster and gruyere gougieres.

In this picture, gouda and two types of blue cheese.

And as always, brie.

I brought Columbia Crest's Two Vines Chardonnay, which was a great pairing for the gruyere. The Chard was a little tart, but crisp. It improved after a couple sips, for sure.

Erica taught us a little tip about wine and cheese: Sip the wine first, then have the cheese, which will enhance the flavor rather than overpower it. The key to pairing wine and cheese, she said, was trying to match the strength of the cheese to the strength of the wine, so one didn't totally drown the other out.

We were all pretty big fans of the Mendoza Station Sauvignon Blanc, which we paired with

I love Riesling, and it paired well with gouda cheese. That's a kind of surprising pair, but the sweetness and the savory were a good mix.

This spicy Earth, Zin and Fire Zinfandel was a nice match to mild muenster.

I forgot to take a picture of the champagne we had, but we paired it with colby, which is surprisingly delicious. I didn't take a picture of it, because it's pretty much our wine club favorite, but we also paired Prince Michel Cabernet Franc with blue cheese and OMG that might have been the best match. The strong flavors don't compete, but blend perfectly.

For more tips on pairing wine and cheese, I found this very helpful guide.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Best v.36

Want to know how I spent my downtime this weekend? Setting and beating scores on Snood! Do you remember Snood? I was obsessed my freshman year of college. This week, Jack Donaghy said he was drinking whiskey and playing Snood on 30 Rock and that was all the reminder I needed. I promptly downloaded the game and have been reliving 2002 for the past two days. For some reason, I was having trouble typing, so you might notice I'm setting my records as "mberAAmber." Yeah, I had a good hearty laugh over it, too.
  • For fans of The Big Lebowski: The dudeth abideth.
  • This Kate Spade dress is near perfect if you've ever coveted Holly Golightly's hot pink dress in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
  • I totally weeped in my office reading Joanna's birth story.
  • Need an incredibly versatile accessory? Try a furoshiki.
  • Another resource for vintage-style wedding gowns. How come these are all cropping up AFTER I conducted my search?
  • Don't sloppy joe sliders sound like the best fall food right about now?
  • Chalkboards are de rigeur right now, and this heart-shaped one is the cutest.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kate Spade Twirl

I've been needing a new day-to-day fragrance for a while now. I have a couple of very heady evening-only perfumes, one of which is Givenchy's L'Interdit that my dearly departed grandmother gave me when I turned 17. I'm preserving those last few drops, so I like to have a lighter, easy-to-wear fragrance for daily life. I was addicted to Lavanila's Vanilla Grapefruit, but I used it all up a few months ago, so I think it's time to try something new.

The ad for Kate Spade's new perfume, Twirl, caught my eye in my Vogue last night and I gave it a big, hearty whiff. Hard to tell from a magazine loaded with 15 other perfume samples, but it smelled very me. I like to test-drive perfumes before committing too much, so I'm thinking I might get an $18 rollerball. I'll let you know how it goes!

15 days till I do!

Doesn't this girl look just like fall? I'm ready to say hello to Fair Isle sweaters, for sure. Image via fffound.

Well, I don't have a nice, streamlined update for you today. Manic and meandering will have to do. I have a new wine club post coming up tomorrow; it was supposed to go up earlier this week but life has been pretty crazy the past few weeks.

15 days till our wedding! 15!!!

We're paying our vendors, ordering candy for the dessert bar, delivering ribbon to the florist and tweaking the ceremony with our officiant. It's amazing to think how much was left to be done at the start of the summer and how our to-do list is dwindling every day. I love that! I can't wait until I look at my to-do list on The Knot (the most obnoxious thing on earth) and have 0 items left to accomplish!

I'm also slowly starting to come up with ideas for what to do while we're in San Francisco for our honeymoon. Have any of you been? What are your must-sees, must-eats and must-shops? I'm hoping to go have pizza at Flour + Water and want to make sure to grab a cheesy tourist picture in front of the Full House row of painted lady Victorian homes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Best v.35

I've been gazing at the jewelry by Scosha NYC, lusting after all these rings, earrings and necklaces. I found their site through Something Old, Something New, and am now hoping for the day I can buy myself a "right-hand ring."
  • Sure, Darth Vader's staff might not be known for their good doings, but that's why the Death Star PR Team has launched a blog.
  • We need something new for words. They're over.
  • might be that I'm getting married in 20 days, but this commercial totally brought me to tears.
  • The funniest blog devoted to a badass congressional representative.
  • Wishing I had all the monies to buy everything from emersonmade, most especially her new shoe line.
  • Are you a fan of "The Rachel Zoe Project"? I am. I kinda want Brad to date all my gay friends.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Covet: Fall Fashion

I love nothing more than fall fashion, and perhaps because almost all my money is tied up in wedding stuff, I've been jonesing for new clothes and accessories even more. I've promised myself I can only buy a couple of things before I go on my honeymoon to San Francisco, but here's a snapshot of what I wish I was dropping dollas on this year:
Leopard and bows are all the rage this fall, so I'd love to dress up my feet with these flats from Ciao Bella, $69 at Piperlime. I used to have a pair of leopard flats that I LOVED but I wore them to death.

I love unique necklaces and I'm really feeling Czech glass lately. This vintage Czech glass necklace is made by The Looksee and costs $68 on Etsy.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a thing for stripes. Loving this sea stripes tee, $45 at Madewell. (Side note: I love everything Madewell sells, but I wish they'd sell more...womanly sizes, too.)

How cute would this Montpelier tee be with cords and brown leather boots? $78 at Anthropologie (natch).

Loving the punch of color on the ladylike Knightsbridge zippered Darcy bag, $425 at Kate Spade.
I'm not usually a big ring kind of gal, but this is so classic, I could imagine wearing it forever. Gatsby ring, $25 at Madewell.

Another splurge I'd love to make: A.R. Trapp Troubadour sunglasses, $450 at J.Crew.

Really, really coveting these Martingale boots, $238 from Anthropologie.

And while we're looking at boots, these Hunter Regent Savoy wellies are just about perfect. $150 at Zappos.

P.S. Before you feel bad for me, know I just bought a lovely pumpkin-colored cardigan from the J.Crew outlet, so I'll be festive for fall in San Fran!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Best v.34

Did you just die for last week's Mad Men episode? I loved it; I'm a Peggy fan and I love her and Don's father/daughter/peer/confidant relationship. You can read my thoughts on each episode over at my friend Alex's new blog. Catch up with our recaps on Mondays!

In the meantime, here's two weeks' worth of my favorite links! My Sundays have been nutsy busy lately, so my apologies for missing last week.
  • A very cool multimedia experiment involving The Arcade Fire and Google Maps!
  • Miss "Gourmet"? You can still get your fix.
  • Stuck for rehearsal dinner ideas? How about floating downriver?
  • How to make lace envelopes out of doilies.
  • A tutorial to make an ice cream cone pinata.
  • I totally want this silhouette machine.
  • The coolest wedding things this summer. Hint: It involves a zombie cake.
  • What's better than having all your best friends at your wedding? Having them look like a fashion spread.

Friday, September 10, 2010

And so the countdown begins...

I could offer some excuses for where I've been this week (yes, I did forget to do the Sunday Best!), but it was the norm: out of town for a wedding, then two night meetings, no dinners to cook, et cetera et cetera.

But in the meantime, we marked an important milestone: One month away from the wedding, as of Thursday! Wedding planning (and stress) have kicked into high gear and we've reached the point where you just spend money with abandon, keep track of your headcount and field questions from every direction. I'm getting very excited, but there's plenty of hoops to jump through before I can let loose and really just enjoy it. So here's the week in wedding planning:

I had a very successful hair trial! Loves it!

I purchased a garter from this fine lady, even though I'm a little nervous wearing a garter with a short dress.

And I ordered two types of ribbon from Save On Crafts. One of these ribbons will end up on my bridesmaids' bouquets, but I want to see them in person before I make a decision.

Speaking of which, mini rant: have you been to your local Michael's or fabric store lately? They have awful ribbon selections. Seriously! The only place I could find lovely ribbon was the internets or M+J Trimming in New York. Whither the great craft supplies these days?

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Pizza Dough Taste Test

Remember when I promised to post this yesterday? Let's just say this week kicked my butt. Anyways...on to the pizza. On Emmy night, Sean and I invited our friends over and I thought it was the perfect chance to make homemade pizzas.

I've tried a couple different crusts in the past, but I was determined today to pick the favorite that will become my standby. I used one by Smitten Kitchen and one by Giada de Laurentis.

Disclaimer: Homemade pizza is a rainy day, Sunday afternoon kind of cooking experiment unless you like to wait more than 2 hours to have dinner after getting home from work. You can buy pre-mixed pizza dough balls from Trader Joe's or you can mix your own and freeze them in batches, pulling one down when you need it.

I went with Smitten Kitchen's recipe first. Deb and Giada have very different opinions about yeast. Deb wants you to use just a smidge, about 3/4 teaspoons, to get a nice, thin crust. Giada wants the whole shebang, but we'll get to her technique later.

First, mix flour, salt, and the yeast.

Add lukewarm water and a tablespoon of olive oil and mix until you can form a ball. Deb always makes this sound easy and hers always looks great. Mine always turns out looking awful.

Dump the dough bits on a lightly floured counter and roll into a ball. Spritz olive oil cooking spray in a mixing bowl, roll the dough ball around the oil and cover with plastic wrap to rise for 2 hours.

On the flip side, Giada recommends letting an ENTIRE packet of active dry yeast dissolve in warm water.

For Giada's recipe, I decided to change tactics and try out the dough hook in my KitchenAid. I placed flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of the mixer and mixed those well, before adding the yeast mixture and olive oil. I let the dough hook do the heavy lifting.

Once I had a sticky ball of dough in the KitchenAid, I dumped it out onto the floured surface and then added it to another olive oil-covered bowl to rise. This dough does not need two hours to rise. That yeast does its handiwork within an hour, believe you me.

So, after two hours, my Smitten Kitchen dough looked like this. I'm pretty sure it didn't come close to doubling. Not sure what happens, but her recipe never quite works for me the way it works for her.

But my Giada recipe EXPLODED! Omg, that's not doubling, that's quadrupling!

I placed the ball of Giada dough on my floured counter, and punched out the dough. I rolled it back into a ball and, using a heavily floured rolling pin, spread out the dough.

I can't get a perfect circle to save my life, but whatevs. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper or pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature; ours is 550.

I used a homemade sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and Italian seasonings. I like my sauces on the thin side, personally. I made a classic pepperoni, with mozzarella cheese, pecorino romano and parmesan.

I repeated the same process for the Smitten Kitchen pizza, but made one grievous error: I sprinkled WAY too much flour on the counter and my dough absorbed it right up.

I was out of mozzarella at that point, so I made a plain cheese pizza with a bag of Mexican cheese. This crust option seems better for a thin, crackery crust, but I didn't bake it long enough to get good and crisp. My bad.

So which is my preferred recipe? Honestly, they deliver very different pizzas, so I think I'd switch depending on the toppings. For a thinner pizza, go with Smitten Kitchen. But I think Giada's might be my standby; the crust itself is delicious, easy to make and takes less time to rise.