Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Cheese Guy and a recipe for Beaufort & Thyme Gougeres

One of the benefits of deciding to trek around Mt Blanc is coming across one of the masters of one of your favourite cheeses in a tiny village on a random hillside (aka Savoie region of the French Alps), like Mr Beaufort here, one of the eponymous cheesemakers of the region. We came across Mr Beaufort towards the end of 7 days hiking and let me tell you, stumbling into his little cheese cave out of the freezing winds to smell that cheese and eat a slab of it was heaven reincarnated. He was so lovely, quiet and unassuming - almost as if he had no idea that the cheese he was making was one of the most awarded in France let alone lauded across the world. Trust me if I could have fit a wheel of that stuff into my bag I would have - it was painful to walk out of there empty handed.

A few fun facts on Beaufort Cheese
- Firm raw cows milk cheese, part of the Gruyere family
- There are 3 types - a summer beaufort, winter beaufort and one that is made in the chalets in the alps which is Beaufort d'alpage; all made in the Savoie region of France
- It takes 11 litres of milk for 1 kg of cheese sourced from two special mountain cow breeds Tarine and Abondance
- Making it is high maintenance - the milk is heated, cooled, cast into its concave shape, soaked in brine, rested for a few months during which time it gets salted by hand daily, turned and massaged.
- It's then aged for 6-12 months minimum before you and I scoff it down in disgusting proportions...or is that just me?

And what would a post on cheese be without a recipe with cheese, beaufort cheese gougeres.

Beaufort & Thyme Gougeres


100ml milk
150ml water
120g butter
pinch salt
1 tsp caster sugar
150g plain flour, sifted
3-4 eggs
150g Beaufort cheese, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp thyme leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180C.
Combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saupcean. Return to the heat, add the cheese and continue mixing over a low heat for 2 minutes or until the cheese melts and is incorporated.

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture should become really glossy and thick. Add the chopped thyme at this point and stir to combine. Season to taste.

You can pour the mixture into a piping bag or if like me, you hate the things, I just use two dessert spoons to scoop the mixture straight onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until golden and crisp. You can use an egg wash if you like but I think the eggs and butter in the mix do it for you. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving. Toss over some thyme flowers if you have them.

Makes 30 if you can resist eating the choux dough while making them.

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