Pink peppercorns, which I discovered as poivre rose in cooking school, aren't really peppercorns at all. Shakespeare may have said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but poivre rose is really a misnomer. Pepper is hard, and spicy. It makes you sneeze; it is boisterous and strident. But pink peppercorns are like hot, bright birthday balloons, freeze-dried and hollow, that crunch and crumble at the slightest pressure. They are not spicy so much as feisty, like a natural Pop Rock with just a hint of peppery spice—more subtle and delicate, in flavor and texture, than the peppercorns in your pepper mill.
The black peppercorn is the father figure: strong, set in his ways, inveterately hot-tempered. The pink peppercorn is his delicate daughter: beautiful, subtle, refined, unexpected, vivacious, and surprising. Yet, the Pink Lady doesn't fall far from the tree.
Gougères are a savory preparation of choux pastry, essentially salty profiteroles. They are hard enough to tap on the outside, but hide a puff of air in the center. I love the combination of pink peppercorn and Parmesan: spicy and salty, but decidedly soft-spoken about their flavors. Tuck them warm into a cloth napkin in a basket for brunch for something gourmet and elegant. Serve them with butter, or even strawberry butter made from butter mixed with jam, for a sweet, spicy, salty combination.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon freeze-dried pink peppercorns, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a covered saucepot, bring the butter and water to a boil with a pinch of salt.
When the water boils and the butter is fully melted, take the pan off the heat, and dump in the flour.
Return the pan to low heat, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 30 to 45 seconds, or until the mixture comes together, and comes away from the sides of the pan. Turn the dough out into a large bowl (and soak that pot immediately to help with clean up!).
Allow the dough to cool just slightly for a few minutes. Then, adding one egg at a time, stir the eggs into the dough with a wooden spoon. It is vigorous work, but at the end, you will have a sticky dough.
Stir in the cheese and the pink peppercorns, and fully incorporate.
Use a medium-sized ice cream scoop to make balls of the dough. Line them up on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, leaving some room between them to allow them to puff up. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees F, and bake another 35 to 40 minutes, until hard to the touch. Pull them out of the oven, and let them sit for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Then, allow them to cool further on a cooling rack. Eat warm or at room temperature.