I recently went to a fête for my birthday at a friend’s home in the Marais, whose family is renowned for making exceptional French wines. I don’t know a lot about wine, but I know that when combined with certain things, the effect is transcendental. Gougères, or cheese puffs, are one of those things.
But really, who are we kidding. They’re an appetizer that goes with everything! They’re truly one of my favorite pre-dinner snacks with wine, beer, or a cocktail.
Known in English as “cream puff dough,” gougères are cheese puffs made by folding cheese into the dough, then baking them in little rounds. You can vary the flavor by deciding what type of cheese that you’d like to use. I usually use Comté, Gruyère, Mimolette, or cheddar. The choice is up to you. You can also make them small or larger (or giant). Of course, smaller ones will bake in less time than larger ones. Just bake until well-browned and crisp.
The best thing about this recipe, aside from being easy to make from ingredients one normally has on hand, is that they can be made earlier in the day, which is a good thing for those of us who like to take a break before our guests arrive. A quick reheat in a moderate oven makes them as good as new. For forming the puffs, although some people like to use piping bags, because of all the grated cheese, it’s often easier to use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop if you have one.
- 1/2 cup (125ml) water
- 3 tablespoons (40g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (70g) flour
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces, 90g) grated cheese, (See above for ideas)
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Heat the water, butter, salt, and pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
- Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes, to cool it down a bit. At this point, you can scrape the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If you don’t have a mixer, let it cool in the pan, stirring it a few times to let the heat escape.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook.’ The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. After the eggs have been added, let cool until tepid. (So as not to melt the cheese in the next step.)
- Add about 3/4s of the grated cheese, and stir until well-mixed.
- Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.
- Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, the put the baking sheet in the oven.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375ºF (190ºC) and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.