When I first saw a friend make cheese puffs years ago, I was told that I had to make sure to stir the water/butter/flour mixture constantly (and very carefully) until the mixture formed into a ball. If I didn’t do it right –I was told–the whole exercise would be unsuccessful. Since I didn’t know how to cook then, that fear always stayed with me. Silly, I know, but I didn’t realize how easy these cheesy nuggets were to make until tonight. I hope this wasn’t just beginner’s luck. I’d like to believe that I chose the right recipe to follow and that I’ll be able to make an equally light, cheesy, golden puff next time.
French in origin, a gougère is a light, hollow pastry that is most commonly flavored with gruyère, a mildly sharp, nutty cheese. It works well as an appetizer because gougères are light, airy and can easily be paired with wine, cheese, or even charcuterie. I actually didn’t have any gruyère tonight but I did have a nice wedge of manchego and a small block of Irish cheddar. I used a combination of the two cheeses with good results.
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook
- 1 cup water
- 7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 4 – 5 large eggs (I only needed 4)
- 1 1/4 cups grated gruyère (5 ounces) (I used a combo of manchego and Irish Cheddar)
- Freshly ground white pepper (I didn’t have any so I omitted)
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for two minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes).
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 3o seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth , silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. The batter in the mixing bowl should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again, and if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in 3/4 cup of the gruyere and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch pastry tip with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into 1-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères as the mixture will spread during baking (I couldn’t be bothered with this so I used melon-baller sized ice cream scoop instead). Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they puff and hold their shape. Reduce the heat to 350ºF and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes (using convection again, mine finished in about 15-18 minutes). When the gougères are done, they should be a light golden brown color. When you break one open, it should be hollow; the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist. Remove the pans from the oven and serve while hot.