"Harlem of the West" and some Gougeres (French Cheese Puffs)

Happy 2012! We had great New Year's weekend and I hope you did too. Our final weekend of 2011 started off with a little gathering at our house. We ate Indian (sub-continent, not Native-American) and it was good! I made Julie Sahni's Dum Aloo- whole potatoes with spicy yogurt gravy- and our friend Teo made Chana Masala, which was excellent. The next day we went to a NYE party- with the kids- and had a lovely time. The hosts of the party hired two babysitters, so the kids were all being supervised downstairs in the basement while the adults hung out upstairs. Brilliant.
I brought over French cheese puffs, or  Gougère, which I'm pretty sure I mispronounced the whole night, despite studying French in high school. The gougère (pronounced: goo/zhehr) were delicious. I decided to make Dorie Greenspan's, but the recipes from David Lebovitz and Martha Stewart looked great too. They were puffed, airy, light and cheesy. I decided to use a mix of Gruyere and White Cheddar. It was the way to go. Gougère are the perfect compliment to a glass of champagne.
The next day I woke up early. I decided it was a good day to take the kids on an historic walking tour. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, and almost no one was milling about on the streets, but the sun was shining and there was architecture to see.
We ventured over to the 'Five Points' section of the city. It's about a mile away from downtown and is named 'Five Points' due to the transit stop that culminates at the point where Washington Street, 27th Street, 26th Avenue, and Welton Street all meet (the intersection is five-ways). This area is also affectionately called "Harlem of the West."
Five Points is one of the oldest sections of the city and the first predominantly African-American neighborhood in Denver. It was well known for its Jazz history and Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis (to name a few) all passed through. There's some great architecture in this part of town as well. There are buildings from the 1880's and 90's, 1910-1920 (like the Rossonian) and some great Queen Anne-style mansions. Of course there are some modern add-ons too. 

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Back to the puffs: They are the perfect thing to make for a special occasion, a little soirée or just any day...
I love these little gougeres!
Gougeres (French Cheese Puffs), Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or cheddar, or a mix (about 6 ounces)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring—with vigor—for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should now be very smooth.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl that you can use for mixing with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny. 

Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don't be concerned if the dough separates—by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. 

Once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately.

Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère , drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds. Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds. 

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are golden, firm, and, yes, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. Serve warm, or transfer the pans to racks to cool.
Gougères are good straight from the oven and at room temperature. I like them both ways, but I think you can appreciate them best when they're still warm. Serve with kir, white wine, or Champagne.

The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and then, when they're solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer—no need to defrost—just give them a minute or two more in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept at room temperature over night and reheated in a 350-degree-F oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.