I’ve made a terrible mistake. I missed something. Earlier in the week when I was shaking off some completely indulgent birthday blues by trying to account for the ten best things I ate in the last year, I skipped something.

I’ll try and skirt past the emotional sloppiness. It was illogical and mad (particularly in light of lovely dinners like this one and gifts and kind thoughts arriving from all over the world). But perhaps it was one  more stick of kindling on the signal fire of ‘being a real live grown up‘. It seems I’m not that excited by the passing of time any more. For the good part of a decade I would stitch five years onto my age when asked, hoping it would give me more authority in slightly scary work meetings. Back then time felt like a gentle treadmill to be churned through. Now it feels more like  sprinting after a train, trying to keep up.

What I missed was a puff. It came as the real first thing that we ate at Le Chateaubriand in Paris, 12 months ago. I  remember thinking that they tasted like dairy glossed clouds.  They were crisp and soft and  carted the smell of warm cheesey dough. These ones came specked with poppy seeds.

I was so quick to laud the boudin noir with raspberries we later ate that I plain skipped the puffs. But a gourgere is not something to be overlooked.

For one, they’re the answer to so many questions.

a) What can I do with the left over scraps of Boursin cheese and parmesan that are still having a small pas de deux in the fridge door?

b) How can I take out my frustrations on pastry without over working it completely? (Convincing the flour and butter paste in choux to accept the eggs is one sound way)

c) What do I take to the housewarming of two highly prized women? (To give an idea of their competence; one just edited this tome. The other is responsible for these amazing prints which now grace our walls).

d) What canape can I make ahead and stash in the freezer, to later pull out, chuck in the oven for five minutes and look like I’ve spent all afternoon slaving away in a kitchen?

The answer is a gourgere. You could keep them plain with cheese. You could, a- la -Le Chateaubriand encrust them in poppy seeds.  You could give them a cheerful kick along with some chilli powder and thyme. Or you could just keep them gloriously plain with cheese.

Once baked you can easily stuff fistfuls of them into your mouth while staring out your window and wondering where in the heck the past 31 years have got to. Or you could neatly pack them into tupperware to take on a train with you to serve with a swiping of a goat curd and creme friache dip at a party.

None of the above would constitute a mistake. The only error is waiting too long to add them into your arsenal.

(I say this firm in the knowledge that the passing of time also means that holiday season is fast  upon us. And the novelty of holding a glass of fizz and at a gathering and asking who would like a cheesey puff should never be underestimated).

Cheese puffs/Gourgeres

Makes around 40 small, bite sized gourgeres.

Equipment

1 saucepan. 1 mixing bowl. 1 piping bag. 1 baking tray lined with baking paper.

Shopping/foraging

125 ml water
40 grams of butter
70 grams of plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
40 grams goat curd/boursin
50 grams of grated parmesan/gruyere
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp thyme
pinch of salt.

 Method

1. Preheat the oven to 210 C/ 410 F.

2) Place the butter and water together in a saucepan and bring up to a simmer and stir until the butter melts.

3) Quickly sift in all of the flour and stir enthusiastically. Don’t shilly shally about this. Use a big sifter and do two or three vigorous knocks to get it all in there.

4) Keep stirring until the batter shirks away from the edge of the pan into a ball. Keep stirring the ball of dough over the heat for a minute to try and evaporate as much liquid as you can.

5) Transfer the batter into a clean bowl. I like to spread the batter up the sides to help increase the exposed surface area, which helps it cool faster.

6) While the batter is cooling grate your cheese and set aside and break your eggs into a bowl. Whisk with a fork.

7) Pour half of the egg mixture into the batter and stir keenly to get the batter to absorb the egg. It might look like it won’t do it and resemble a bit of a sloppy curdled mess,  but persist. It will.

8 ) Repeat with the rest of the egg mix.

9) Add in the goat cheese, 4/5ths of the parmesan cheese, thyme, chilli and a pinch of salt.

10 ) Stir to combine, then transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a wide circular nozzle.

11 ) I like to fix the baking paper to my baking tray with a little splodge of batter in each corner. This stops it shaking around when I start to pipe. Pipe  for three seconds, until you have balls about the size of baby bocconcini. Pat the top with a wet finger to push down any impertinent spires.

12) Sprinkle the top with the last bits of parmesan and place into the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180 C/350 F and bake for 20 minutes, until brown all over.

13 ) Serve warm, or cool them and freeze them in tupperware. They can be reheated in a 150 C/300 F oven for five minutes.  They can be served on their own, or swiped through a goat cheese dip.