So with champagne and cheese, what’s better than foods that contain more cheese? Nothing, in my book. (Although the contents of my book are sketchy at a minimum.) Christina and I decided to prepare two nibbles that went well with the spread. We settled on gougères and parmesan crisps.

Gougères are French (obviously) little puffy pieces of dough that have gruyère cheese baked into it. They’re like a very light biscuit. I should disclaim here — this is like a VERY light biscuit for all you southerners. As you know, I am from the South, and biscuits aren’t always so soft. But smothered with apple butter, all is well. The Flying Biscuit in Atlanta has the most amazing apple butter. Which has nothing to do with gougères, I admit.

Anyways, they melt in your mouth, and have a gentle enough flavor that they don’t compete with the wines or cheeses we selected. The flavor of the gruyère is nutty and sweet/salty, which makes the flavors perfect compliments.

Gougères (from Bon Appetit)

You will need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, chilled
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  2. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Bring 1 cup water, butter, and salt to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking until butter melts.
  4. Add flour; stir rapidly with wooden spoon until flour absorbs liquid and forms ball, pulling away from sides of pan.
  5. Stir vigorously until film forms on bottom of pan and dough is no longer sticky, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat; cool dough 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time.
  8. Stir in cheese and pepper.
  9. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart.
  10. Using damp fingertip, press down any peaks of dough.
  11. Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes, reversing position of pans halfway through baking.
  12. Using small sharp knife, pry open 1 gougère to check for doneness (center should be slightly eggy and moist).
  13. Serve hot or warm. Can be made 3 hours ahead.
  14. Transfer to racks; cool. Rewarm in 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

 So while Parmesan crisps aren’t really for spreading cheese on (they are super crumbly), they’re great little salty bites that are amazing with a bit of dry champagne. And seriously, they are just melted cheese, which for me is a dream. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a salty cheese (Italians many times use this instead of salt) and it retains its flavor even as it melts and browns.

Parmesan Crisps (from Gourmet)

You will need:

  • 1 (3-oz) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Special equipment: a nonstick bakeware liner (or good old-fashioned aluminum foil)

Directions:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner.
  2. Grate 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano using large holes of a box grater.
  3. Arrange 6 mounds (1 rounded tablespoon each) of cheese 3 inches apart on liner, then flatten each mound lightly with a metal spatula to form a 3-inch round.
  4. Bake until golden, 7 to 10 minutes, then transfer crisps with spatula to a rack to cool completely, about 5 minutes.
  5. Repeat procedure with remaining cheese to make more crisps.
 
All in all, the pairing of the champagne, cheeses and appetizers were light and amazing. The perfect start to a perfect night.
 
Enjoy!
 
~ Dana
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