Ramp and Jarlsberg Gougères
It’s that time of year again – the annual frenzy over Ramps! I’d heard via Twitter that they’d arrived at the Greenmarkets. Even one of my culinary school classmates was talking about how he’d just cooked up a pile of them at his job, grilling them a la plancha. One of my other classmates asked what on earth ramps were. He was unfamiliar with this rite of spring in the New York area and was mystified as to the hype over these greens that he’d never heard of before coming up here.
All kidding aside, I really do look forward to the appearance of these wild leeks. To me, they are like seeing the first crocus buds breaking through the soil, an indication of spring’s impending arrival, followed by all the wonderful berries, tomatoes, vegetables, and greens that will be showing up in the local markets over the course of the next few months. Last year, I might have gotten a bit carried away with three posts of ramp recipes, but they do add a bright flavor and bring gorgeous, vibrant color to dishes.
In search of a new recipe to bring to a cocktail party, I decided to see how ramps would work inside of gougères, the base of which is choux pastry, something that we made several times in culinary school mostly in sweet versions. The technique for making these Ramp and Jarlsberg Gougères is straightforward, but does take attention to details and keeping an eye on how the dough comes together. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can add in any ingredients you like. They freeze really well and would be perfect to take to those outdoor gatherings that are starting to take place now that the weather is getting warmer.
Ramp and Jarlsberg Gougères
Prep time: 45 minutes
Serving size: about 3 dozen gougères
200 ml Water
1/4 tsp. Salt
100 g Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes
125 g All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. Mustard, dried
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
3 Eggs, large
1 Egg, large, if needed (it might not be)
100 g Jarlsberg Cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. Ramp greens, chopped finely (about 5 large leaves)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or silicone liners.
In a saucepan, place the butter, water, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Just at the point when the butter has melted completely, pour in the flour and stir it into the liquid. Turn the heat to low as you mix in the flour using a wooden spoon.
It is very important not to let too much of the water-butter mixture evaporate before adding the flour, as that will throw off the proportions that drive this recipe. This is also why the butter must be cut into cubes, so that it melts quickly and evenly with very little loss of water vapor as it dissolves.
Continue stirring the flour mixture until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. This is the dessécher (or “drying out”) phase of making choux pastry. Remove the pan from the heat completely. Add in the dried mustard and ground nutmeg and stir to incorporate. Let mixture sit to the side for one minute, off of the heat, while cracking open the eggs.
Add the eggs one at a time and stir vigorously to incorporate them into the flour mixture. At first, it will seem like the eggs will never combine with the dough, but keep on stirring until it is all blended together.
Continue adding the other eggs. The dough will be slick and sticky. One way to test to see if it is done is to scoop up a bunch of it on the wooden spoon, if it curves over in a hook, it is ready. If not, it might need another egg, but don’t add in the fourth egg all at once. Beat together the yolk and the white and add about half the beaten egg to the dough, mix together, and then check it again to see if it is done. In the several times I’ve made these, sometimes all it needed was just one half of an egg to bring it all together. (Add the extra half a beaten egg to your next omelet.)
Stir in the Jarlsberg cheese followed by the ramp greens.
Take spoonfuls of dough and place them on the baking sheets. Place them in the oven and let them bake for 25-30 minutes until they are puffy and golden brown.
Remove the baked gougères from the oven. Leave them on the baking sheet for a minute and then place them on a rack to cool. These are fine served at room temperature or heated up again by placing them in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for 5-10 minutes. If making them in advance to keep in the freezer, cool them completely and place in a resealable bag.