2010 has been a pretty tough year given all the nasty political battles and continuing economic uncertainty. I, for one, will be happy to bid it adieu Friday night.
To toast the arrival of 2011, I’ve come up with a new cocktail – one that brings together the old and the new with a dash of gin, a multitude of tiny bubbles and the lively spark of pomegranate. It began as a French 75, the World War I favorite of the Lost Generation of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
My family is calling this variation the Ruby Bullet. Paired with hot, puffy gougeres, it’s bound to enliven any New Year’s Eve celebration.
Just as potent as the French 75, which drew its name from a French howitzer, the Ruby Bullet calls for fresh pomegranate juice to replace the lemon juice in the original. If you can’t find freshly squeezed juice and don’t want to prepare your own, pomegranate liqueur will work in a pinch.
We experimented, too, with substituting vodka for the gin specified in the version first served at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Ultimately, though, we decided to stick with gin, which offers a complex herbal backdrop for the exotic fruit. We also opted for inexpensive Spanish cava rather than pricey champagne from France.
Since every cocktail deserves a complementary nibble, I’m also sharing a recipe for black pepper and thyme gougeres. It comes straight out of “Tartine,” by renowned San Francisco bakers Elisabeth Pruett and Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, 2006). One really shouldn’t mess with perfection.
The only change I’ve made is to portion the dough out onto the baking sheets with a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop. That’s far easier for most home cooks to manage than piping the dough through a pastry bag. The cheesy puffs bake up beautifully and taste just as great as they look.
A couple of these tasty gougeres and a flute of Ruby Bullet will cast even 2010 in a rosy light.
2 ounces gin or vodka
1½ ounces pomegranate juice or liqueur
½ ounce simple syrup
Sparkling wine (preferably Spanish cava)
Place gin, pomegranate juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker half way with ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled champagne flute. Top off with sparkling wine.
BLACK PEPPER AND THYME GOUGERES RECIPE
Makes about 3 dozen
1¼ cups nonfat milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt, divided use
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, divided use
¾ cup Gruyere cheese plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.
Combine milk, butter and 1 teaspoon salt in a large, heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a full boil and the butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. The mixture should be very smooth and some of the moisture should have evaporated.
Pour the cooked paste into the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. With the mixer running on medium speed, add 5 of the eggs – one at a time – mixing well between each addition to create a thick and shiny batter. Using a rubber spatula, mix in ¾ cup grated cheese, pepper and thyme by hand.
Spoon out tablespoon-sized mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing mounds about 1½ inches apart.
In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with pinch of salt. Brush the top of each pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with a little of the grated cheese.
Bake until the gougeres have puffed and browned, about 25 minutes. They should feel light for their size.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. May be recrisped in a 360 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Alternatively, prepare gougeres through the placement on the baking sheet and place pan in freezer until the pastries are firm. Remove from baking pan, transfer to an airtight container, and keep frozen for up to a month. When you’re ready to serve, place frozen pastries on baking sheet, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with cheese and bake as instructed above. Baking time for frozen gougeres must increase about 10 minutes.
Adapted from “Tartine,” by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, 2006)