Welcome to the first official installment of Wake & Bake with Spiderweb Salon! I’m your host and resident pastry zealot, Storie Cunningham. We brainstormed for weeks on how to properly present this juicy peach to you, asking ourselves hard hitting questions like, “Should we start with something simple? Complex? Chocolaty? Fruity? Savory? HOW CAN WE CHOOSE JUST ONE?”
So we rolled the dice and decided to pull you in two completely different directions on the first go around. Screw it. The thrill of going all-in just really appeals to people like us. As courtney marie would say: Risk it all.
The first act of our pilot episode opens with these little french things that are damn near impossible to pronounce. Allow me to type it out for you and I’ll let you try and decipher the phonetics: Gruyere Gougeres. In French cuisine, they’re basically these petite puffs made with classic choux pastry--but then you toss a sinful amount of cheese into the dough. The result are these melt-in-your-mouth, cheesy clouds of heaven.
Did your pupils just dilate? ‘Cause mine sure did.
Caitlin and courtney marie first stumbled on this recipe in a copy of Cook's Illustrated that they were drooling over. It seemed too good to be true, so naturally we had to try it. When they came out of the oven all we could say was, OH...MY...GOUGERES…and they were all promptly inhaled before they even had a chance to properly cool. Roofs of mouths be damned! Risk it all! Gougeres or go home!
Coming to hose us off with a palate-cleansing happy ending were these tantalizing, spring-inspired citrus bars. I had a recipe for grapefruit bars I was thirsting for and coincidentally, the sun had FINALLY come out after a week of dreary rain. Naturally Caitlin was up for the challenge and even had the idea of experimenting and going for a cranberry flavored bar while we were at it. This woman is fearless. She’ll grab the best parts from multiple recipes, across several bakers, stitch them all together and see what shakes out. She’s like an adorable Dr. Frankenstein.
In this instance, she took a delectable, buttery, shortbread crust from Ina Garten instead of just going with a standard lemon bar crust. She replaced the typical citrus in our original recipe with some cranberry juice she reduced in a pan on the stove just to give it an extra bite. It’s a real treat to watch her just go for it.
We ended up making two trays of cranberry bars and two trays of grapefruit bars. Both flavors were equally mouthwatering. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many of those suckers actually made it out of the kitchen alive, because I’m pretty sure I just blacked out and devoured a dozen on my own. It’s like the baker’s equivalent of highway hypnosis. You feast on the fruits you labored so long for and before you know it, they’re all gone and you’re leaving Caitlin’s house like it never happened.
If this blog serves to offer any real baking advice, apart from what’s listed in our recipes, I will add a couple cautionary notes about these two featured treats:
With the Gougeres, just spoon the mixture into little mounds on the baking sheet. Caitlin tried to get fancy and pipe them out with a pastry bag and nozzle--they didn’t puff up as much as the spooned ones.
When it comes to the bars, don’t line your pan with parchment or foil. The custard mixture will leak and somehow find its way underneath the crust! We learned this the hard way. (But we totally ate that batch bc it was still tasty AF.)