My Issue With Baking Soda and Gougeres or Cheese Puffs
While I was in 4-H (learn about the organization at that link), I had the pleasure of meeting the first lady I called a nag. Ok, so she wasn’t THAT bad but get this…I’m in my first or second year of baking for the club. My mom and I made the little muffins asked by everyone in that level. I took them to the meeting so that the leader and whomever she picked that evening could give advice on the project before turning them in or making the final batch.
So I’m at the meeting, congregating with friends, then it began and the leaders were onto my muffins. The lady I would later call nag declared that she could taste the baking soda and quickly moved on-not giving advice, not smiling at probably 7 year old me (or whatever age I was), nothing to keep me motivated to do this damn thing that I didn’t want to do anyway again. No words of encouragement. I had no idea what she was talking about either. I tried them-they were muffins to me.
After that, I had to claim the rejected muffins in front of everyone and the leader’s son laughed in my face, repeating “I can taste the baking soda” in a Julia Child voice. That nag also happened to be his aunt so he could get away with it. I went home and told my family and still today, we say that we can taste the baking soda- even in recipes that don’t have it. I’m glad I can chuckle now but very few things make me madder than an adult not encouraging a child that has tried, especially when dealing with something that can be traumatic and what isn’t possibly traumatic at that age? Thanks, lady.
I wish I could say that her comment drove me to greatness but she just provided a saying for our family about my cooking. (How’s the soup? I can taste the baking soda.) If she could see me now with a food blog…she’d probably be just as rude.
A little background: I wasn’t into 4-H very much. My parents helped me do most of the projects-baking, photography and gardening. This organization was a family tradition. My dad had been involved in 4-H for a long time but he did what I see as more exciting- worked with animals to auction and show in the ring. My sister had a sheep in 4-H that my grandparents bought so it could remain alive because I’m not sure that my sis knew that most of the animals were sold for meat or whatnot. That sheep roamed the pasture fields with the cows and the adopted goats on their farm.
I think my mom was more disappointed with the red ribbons “I” received which were next to the worst ribbon. We could also guess who would receive the purple ribbon (the highest award) and go to the state fair: the person whose last name was well-known. You know the type, the person whose family was into everything and friends with everyone (or they were just “gossip-nosy” enough to look like they were friends).
Some of these kids were my pals and if I had seen them work hard throughout the summer on their craft, I would’ve been patting them on the back too but the truth was that they waited until the week of or the day before to throw something together (unless they had animals…their parents did the animal thing for the most part). What a bummer when you get to the fair and see a large purple ribbon (again) on this person’s poster while you have a lowly ribbon and a project that looks almost identical. It is much worse knowing (by seeing) that their parent’s performed the task(s) the day before it was due. All I can do is shake my head.
I hope you don’t taste the baking soda in this little number….because it’s not in this recipe. I found these cheese puffs (gougeres) over the holidays intended as an appetizer but I saw them as a snack for the two of us. They are fairly egg-tasting so not for those who don’t like eggs. Originally from Sunset magazine, I came across it on myrecipes.com. These puffs are adorable! I will leave you with the recipe and the 4-H pledge.
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
Salt and Pepper Cheese Puffs (Gougeres in French)
Makes 48 puffs
1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or another of your choice-Gruyere is nice)
1 1/2 tsp pepper
sea salt (I used Halen Mon and fleur de sel)
Preheat the oven to 400.
In a pan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the butter to a full rolling boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour, stir until the mixture is a smooth, thick paste with no lumps. Add a quarter of the beaten eggs at a time, stirring after each addition until the dough is no longer slippery. Stir in the cheese and pepper.
Spoon the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Drop on the sheets in slightly rounded tablespoon-size portions. Sprinkle each mound with a few grains of coarse sea salt. Bake until dry and well browned, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.