Aki thought we should make gougeres. I laughed. I remember when I first learned to make gougeres when I was at Shenorock Shore Club. I had to make a large batch of pate a choux and my arm aches just thinking of the memory. Why in the world would I want to make gougeres. Then I relaxed, because Aki said she would make them. As she started organizing the ingredients and putting them into the pot I gently pushed her aside (actually I think she was baiting me) and took over the gougere project. The dough came together and then we folded in some aged comte. I filled the pastry bag and lined up the gougeres on a parchment lined sheet pan. After a short turn in the oven the gougeres emerged, crisp on the outside warm and cheesy on the inside. And the kitchen was perfumed with the heady aroma of toasted bread and melted cheese (the aroma of fresh baked gougeres).
I really enjoyed making gougeres again. While I knew another round of gougeres was out of the question (we have been trying not to repeat) I felt we could try something else with the gougere base. If I remember correctly, I often do not, I saw a donut festival over on Eggbeater awhile back and part of the process included using pate a choux to make the donuts. If I am mistaken the spark still comes from my poor ability to remember since I somehow linked pate a choux, Eggbeater and donuts together. Either way, I was going to make some donuts using pate a choux as the base.
I also did not want a plain donut. Sure plain donuts are fine, though I new we could make a donut with a bit of character. Instead of adding cheese to the pate a choux base for the gougeres I added pressure cooked pistachio puree and a healthy dose of pistachio oil. I then filled the pastry bag again with the base. Instead of baking the base I opted to cut sections of piped dough into hot oil. The result was pistachio donuts. We rolled the finished donuts in a cardamom flavored sugar. The sugar acted to pique the flavor of the donuts, keeping them balanced and just a shade on the sweet side of savory.
Today we paired the donuts with white asparagus, rhubarb puree, borage leaves and a few whole pistachios. I really enjoy the dish. Yet, the breakthrough for me is all the possibilities we now have. What can I flavor the donut with now: paprika, lemon, truffle, tomato, onion, lime leaf, pumpernickel? And what role will these donuts play? Can we serve them as part of a dish, a precursor to a dish, as an element in a dish? And then what will we pair these donuts with: foie gras, vegetable salads, even perhaps a dessert.