Feb 19, 2009

Gougères

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I may be in the minority here, but I was not a huge fan of being pregnant. At any point. Okay, as far as pregnancies go, I had it easy in the nausea department and there was about a week at the beginning of the third trimester where I felt like a million bucks all day long. But other than that, I am glad to have that behind me for now and be enjoying my beautiful outside baby. And my wine. Lord, how I missed my wine. There are few things sadder than being eight months’ pregnant and wanting nothing more in the world than some crazy stinky (and unpasteurized) cheese, water crackers and a luscious Côtes du Rhône and sobbing because all you can really have is the crackers.

So I am glad to have wine back in my life, especially when the San Francisco winters make for long, rainy nights. And wine drinking is even more delightful when you get to share a few glasses with a dear visiting friend and a plate of golden gougères, heady with Gruyère.


Gougères are one of those incredibly delicious bites that are so complex in their texture (crisp, light, airy and yet toothsome when the orb begins to melt in your mouth) that you never really believe how simply and quickly they come together, no matter how many times you make them. It all starts with a pâte à choux, that fabulous French invention that can be taken from sweet to savory in a matter of minutes. When the dough is shaped and baked plain, you can have yourself some eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles and more. When loaded with savory ingredients like cheeses (traditionally Gruyère), diced meats and herbs, you’ve made gougères, quite possibly one of the most delightful matches ever to pair with drinks.

The dough initially comes together on the stovetop in just minutes–butter, water, milk, salt and flour–and finishes in your stand mixer with eggs added one at a time until the golden, silky dough comes together with the consistency of a pound cake batter. The cheeses (and/or other seasonings) are stirred in last and the dough is shaped and dropped immediately onto prepared sheet pans. Shape the dough into any size you want, from teaspoonfuls for a dainty one-bite morsel with cocktails in fancy glasses to ice cream scoop-sized mounds that make for a ham sandwich unlike any other you’ve had in your life. I like using my one ounce cookie scoop for a three bite gougere (or two unabashed bites if you’re among friends) that sits well in one hand with a big glass of wine in the other.

If the method isn’t simple enough, when you make yourself a batch of gougère dough, you can scoop out mounds, freeze them on a sheet pan and then store the portions in zip-top bags and bake them off as needed. So you can actually be one of those people that has something intoxicatingly fragrant and freshly baked to offer guests who just happen to “drop by”. Can you stand it?! Actually, I think just dropping by is kind of rude. I don’t know if I would share my gougères with such etiquette rogues. But if you call first, well then my gougères are your gougères.

Gougères

Makes about 30 golf ball-sized puffs

Gruyere is the standard here, but I’ve also made great ones with extra sharp cheddar. Whatever cheese you choose, bold ones taste best with the eggy, buttery richness of the dough. Blue cheeses are also wonderful. If you want to freeze any unused portions, there’s no need to thaw them before baking–just bake them a couple minutes longer.

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup water

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

5 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups of a coarsely grated, flavorful cheese, such as Gruyere or Cheddar


Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.


In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a boil. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium and immediately begin stirring at a good clip with a wooden spoon–don’t let up until the dough starts to come off the sides of the pan. It will also form a loose ball and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. At this point, keep stirring quickly to dry the dough, about 2 minutes more. The dough should now be very smooth and have lost most of its moist appearance.


Turn the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can continue by hand if you have forearms of steel). With the mixer running at medium speed, beat in the eggs one by one. You’ll think the dough is breaking apart and all is lost, but it will come together again as all the eggs are added. Stir in the grated cheese. Immediately scoop the dough onto the prepared sheet pans, leaving about 2 inches of space between each portion.


Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking until the puffs are deeply golden and firm, another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

  • Oh my god those littles things are so good ! I’m french teenager so I can tell you that the gougères are something we usually eat for an “apéritif” in summer or like for a reception. You should try those but with some “lardons” in the dough or with some herbs like “Herbes de Provences”, it makes them tastier !
    I’m so happy to know that our traditional recipes flew to your country ! 🙂
    Thank you !

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