It’s Ham Week (with Ham & Cheese Spiced Gougères)

Happy (late) Easter! I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend celebrating however you do, and I particularly hope any festivities included delicious food.

Do y’all watch The Great British Bake Off? If so, you already know that they have themed weeks: Bread Week, Cake Week, etc. (If not, it’s all on Netflix. I’ll see you back here in a week once that show has charmed your socks off.) Well, over here it’s been Ham Week. My household has Ham Week twice a year — after Easter and after Christmas.

We don’t actually eat a lot of pork, but it’s got to be some holdover nostalgia thing that we feel we must have ham at Easter and Christmas. We were planning to skip Easter ham this year, but then both of us got a little sad at the idea of not having ham, which feels a little weird to type, so here we are days later with lots of leftover ham in the fridge.

My husband is a pastor so last week (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday is known as Holy Week) we were insanely busy — as in by the time we got finished with our big community Easter egg hunt event on Saturday, standing felt like balancing on a particularly precarious heap of gravel mixed with glass, razor blades, and hatred, and words were hard to come by. I’m pretty sure all I could do was moan, “My brain feels mushy.”

That mushiness has extended most of the week. Typically when we have big leftovers, especially of a protein, I like to do lots of things to vary it up. I try to be creative so we don’t get sick of anything. I’ve been lacking the energy / mental capacity to even consider what to do with the ham apart from eating hunks of it cold, which really thrills the pug.

But then the mushiness subsided! Huzzah! I’m probably ready to tackle all the world’s problems now. Or at least try a new recipe.

I’ve been wanting to make gougères (a French baked choux pastry) for a while, and since they contain cheese I figured I’d throw some ham in too.

For a little twist, I added some spices to mine — I also wanted to play around with the color it would give the dough. I’d encourage you to experiment with flavors you like. You can also leave spices out entirely — though if using unsalted butter as I do, some salt is a good idea.

The world of French pastry can often seem intimidating, but these are actually easy to make! Everything comes together in one pot, too, which makes for easy clean-up.

Ham & Cheese Gougères
adapted from Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook (1980)
yields about 26 gougères

1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour, sifted (I used whole wheat)
1 tsp. ground mustard (opt)
1 tsp. paprika (opt)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 eggs
2/3 cup very sharp cheddar cheese, grated (or cheese of your choice)
1/2 cup finely diced ham

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and make sure racks are in the middle of the oven. The bottoms of mine got a little blackened because the rack was too low.

Cut up butter into slices and heat with milk in a pot. Bring to a boil.

While that’s heating, sift together dry ingredients. Then crack eggs into a separate bowl and beat lightly.

Dump the flour into the boiling milk and butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a ball. Remove from the heat. Add in all the eggs and stir until the mixture is smooth.

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Fold in the cheese and ham. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, drop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake until puffed up and cooked through, about 50 – 55 minutes.

These puff up and create a hollow center.

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Just focus on the ham. Don’t panic. Don’t move. Don’t even breathe. Funnel all your energy into willing Mom to just. drop. the. ham.