Last Thursday was the eagerly anticipated Band of Bakers ‘Baking with Cheese’ event at The Crooked Well in Camberwell. There is often a push to get more savoury bakes on the table, not only so that we can all kid ourselves that we’re eating dinner rather than platefuls of cake, but also to limit slightly the sugar rush we all experience upon arriving home. I have had many a sleepless night after gorging myself on sweet treats at Band of Bakers. This was the event for that to happen; for the first time we had more savoury bakes on the table than sweet. It took all of my self control not to do a complete sweep of the table and retreat to the corner to eat my spoils.
Before I go on to what I made for this event, I have a couple of favourites that I need to mention. Jamon and manchego scones by Ben; feta, ricotta and cheddar filo pies by Mandy; and little cheese buns with gruyère, smoked salmon and dill by some unknown genius (make yourself known please!)
Initially, I was intent on making brownies: a hybrid of my salted caramel brownie and my cheesecake brownie, which would end up as the incredibly rich combination of chocolate, salted caramel and vanilla cheesecake, however after making the impromptu chocolate-coconut brownie earlier that week, I changed my mind and went for savoury instead. A while back, I found a recipe for Joy the Baker’s French Onion Soup Puffs, using gruyère cheese, and decided to adapt it slightly to make a London-inspired version for this event: the gruyère, mustard and London Pride-caramelised onion puffs were born.
Despite the fact that I do not drink beer at all (I have tried to learn to like it for about 15 years and have so far failed), I am a big fan of using it in all forms of cooking. Its versatility means that it lends itself to everything from beef stew to chocolate cake, and a slosh in an onion soup is nothing short of heaven. Guinness, obviously, is my cooking stout of choice, however when something a little lighter is required, I almost always opt for London Pride (it would be rude not to, after all). The onions used in the puffs in this recipe are caramelised simply in butter for 45 minutes or so until soft and broken down, and then boiled rapidly in a generous amount of London Pride which, when it reduces down, gives it a dark silkiness and a malty beer flavour.
These little puffs, one bite or two at the most, are a tangy mixture of these onions, gruyère and a little smear of wholegrain mustard, encased in crispy puff pastry. They are incredibly quick to make, especially if you use shop-bought pastry, and make a great vegetarian party snack. Using pre-rolled pastry is the easiest way to go as the thickness is just about right, if you’re using a block of pastry or home-made, roll it out to about half a centimetre. If I were making them for carnivorous friends, I might also include the smallest smidge of shredded beef brisket.
Gruyère, Mustard and London Pride-Caramelised Onion Puffs
Recipe makes about 15 puffs
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large onions
- Salt and pepper, halved and thinly sliced
- 125ml London Pride ale
- 2 sheets ready-made puff pastry, or make your own (see above)
- 4 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 150g gruyere cheese, finely grated
- 1 egg, beaten
Start by caramelising the onions: heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat until the butter has melted. Tip in the onions and stir so that they are evenly coated in the butter mixture. Turn down the heat to very low, put on the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and broken down – this should take about 45 minutes. Once the onions are soft, turn up the heat and pour in the London Pride, gently stir the onions, scraping off any bits that have stuck to the bottom and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates. Leave to cool in the pan whilst you make the pastry puffs.
Preheat the oven to 190ºc / 375ºf / gas 5. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Using a 5cm cutter, cut 30 rounds from the two sheets of puff pastry and arrange half of them on the prepared baking sheets, putting the other half to one side – these will be the lids. Brush the rounds on the baking sheets with egg wash and top each one with a small smear of wholegrain mustard. Add a pinch of gruyère, followed by a teaspoon of the onion mixture.
Brush the remaining rounds with beaten egg and place, egg-side down on top of the cheese and onion mixture. Pinch the edges of the pastry together to seal and crimp with a fork. Make two very small holes in the top of the sealed parcel and place on the baking tray. Brush with the remaining beaten egg and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until risen and golden.
Any leftover onions are fabulous in a sausage sandwich.
Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker