Some of you might find this hard to believe but last December, just seven months ago, was the first time I ever made gougères. I’m no stranger to choux pastry, which is the type of cooked dough you make on the stovetop as a base for gougères, a light & airy French cheese puff. In fact, I made my very first choux pastry 22 years ago.
It was part of the first dinner I ever cooked for Michael, and hadn’t realized that until writing this post—June 1995 was my first time making cream puffs, also utilizing a choux pastry base. Back then the filling was made from instant vanilla pudding (gasp!) mixed with homemade whipped cream. I’ve come quite far since then, mastering a lot more than choux and crème pâtissière.
While we were in Paris for the holidays in December, I decided to make some gougères as appetizers for our Christmas Eve dinner, complete with some champagne for sipping. Let’s just say this would be a wonderful start to any meal, any day of the week. And you know what? They’re so easy to make, there’s no reason we all shouldn’t be baking up a batch more often (I’ll promise to if you do, too).
The trick is to make a big batch of dough, and bake just what you need for the evening (or a normal serving, since really, I would eat about 27,000 of them in one sitting if it were acceptable). The rest of the dough you ask? Well, you can pipe it onto trays, flash freeze them just until set, then store the frozen shaped puffs in a bag or container in the freezer. Take them out as you need them, bake (no need to thaw), and enjoy. It’s really that easy.
And crazy as this might sound, because I know no one wants to think about turning on the oven in summertime, these would be perfect for picnics. They hold up well a few hours after being baked, and are very portable.
I’ve kept things simple and straightforward here. You can do the same, or gussy them up a bit with some fresh chopped herbs. I think thyme (lemon thyme is my favorite), basil, or even sage would be a nice surprise. I also think some za’atar sprinkled on top before baking could be a nice twist.
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 stick (112 grams) butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup (150 grams) all-purpose white flour
- 4 large eggs
- 5 ounces (140 grams) shredded Gruyère, Comté or Cheddar Cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh grating of nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Add the water, milk, and butter to a 2-quart pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter is completely melted.
- Add the flour, and reduce the heat to low. Stir until the flour is absorbed, the mixture dries out a bit, and the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
- Transfer the dough to a deep bowl, and set it aside to cool for 1 minute. Add one egg to the dough, and beat it with wooden spoon until fully mixed in (it’ll be loose at first, then thicken again). Repeat with the remaining eggs, beating them in one at a time.
- Stir in 4 ounces of the cheese, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Scoop the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip (or use a sturdy ziptop bag, and snip off the edge of one corner). Pipe 1-inch mounds of dough onto the prepared pans, leaving 1½ to 2-inches between each mound. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese
- Bake, one tray at a time, 14 to 16 minutes, until golden and crisp. Pierce the cooked gougères with a metal skewer to release hot air so they don’t get soggy inside. Serve immediately, or let them finish cooling on the tray and store in a tin in cool, dry place until serving (they’ll keep for up to one day).