Gougères are traditionally French cheese pâte à choux, savoury ones so to speak. While I tend to favour the sweeter variety of choux (like choux à la crème), I have taken a recent liking to these bite-sized savoury ones so much so that I baked these twice in quick succession.
These gougères make such an addictive snack. Think: a more elegant (and probably healthier) version of potato chips. Once you pop, you can’t stop.
In my recent post on the basics of choux pastry, I mentioned how versatile choux pastry is – sweet or savoury, baked or fried, your choice. In this post, I’ll share with you how to make the cheese variant. I would think that these would be perfect if you are hosting a dinner party or even a snack for a picnic because they are incredibly easy to make.
Some may choose to fill these baked puffs with a cheese spread but I actually like these as they are. I think the gruyère does come through pretty well. Though gruyère is the traditional cheese used in these puffs, do feel free to add your favourite cheese (with caution though, I would avoid the soft cheeses). You can also use a mix of two cheeses – maybe gruyère and parmasan.
This novel is written by a French author, Muriel Barbery, called “Gourmet rhapsody”. The story follows a renowned French food critic on his deathbed and the only one thing he wishes for before he dies is one last taste. He asks for some chouquettes (French choux pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar) to the surprise of his family members.
He then reveals:
“The criteria that go into any great chouquette are those of any self-respecting choux pastry. One must avoid softening and chewiness in equal measure. The consistency of the choux must be neither elastic nor limp, neither brittle nor aggressively dry. Their glory stems from an ability to be tender without being frail, and firm without being stiff.”
I just love the way he describes a perfect choux pastry. I’ll leave you with these beautiful words and recipe.
Makes 34 small cheese puffs
Gougères or cheese puffs are savoury choux pastry that traditionally made with a semi-hard cheese like gruyère. You can experiment with your favourite cheeses but it’s advisable to stick with the semi-hard range. If the cheese is too soft, it will probably add too much moisture which may prevent the choux from rising properly. They are the perfect hors d’oeuvres to have for a party – easy to make, elegant, and just enough to whet your appetite before a meal.
42 ml full cream milk
65g unsalted butter, chopped
3g granulated sugar
100g plain flour
+/- 100g eggs
80g gruyère, grated (or you can subsitute with other semi-hard cheeses like comté)
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, finely chopped ( you can use chives instead)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pinch of paprika
pinch of nutmeg
egg wash ( I use a whole egg with a pinch of salt)
1. Prepare trays for baking the gorgères by greasing it with butter so that they would not stick on the tray.
2. Place water, milk, butter, sugar and salt into a pot and bring it to a rolling boil. It should be bubbling furiously.
3. Remove the pot from the heat or turn down the heat and pour in all the flour at once and stir immediately and vigorously with a wooden spoon/spatula. Ensure that there is no lumps of flour in the *panade. Cook out the mixture over low heat for another 2-3 minutes. You should have a glossy panade that can be formed into a ball that comes away from the sides of the pot easily.
4.Remove the panade and place it into your machine mixer bowl. Using a paddle attachment, put the machine on low speed in order to cool the panade down for about 5 minutes. Add in the black pepper, paprika and nutmeg, to taste, at this stage.
5. When the panade is not hot to touch, with the paddle attachment still on, start adding the eggs one at a time at medium speed (speed 4 on the Kitchenaid mixer). The mixture may look like it has cuddled and split at first but be patient and allow the machine to do its job to emulsify the mixture. It will come back together in a while.
6. Continue adding the eggs until you get a smooth, thick, glossy paste. When you lift up your spatula, it should fall after roughly 3 seconds. It should be able to fall from the spatula on its own but not be too wet that it can’t hold its shape. You may/may not require the entire amount of eggs as stated in the recipe, depending on the consistency of the choux paste.
7. Add in the grated cheese and thyme and incorporate thoroughly. Place choux paste into a piping bag with a plain nozzle/star shaped nozzle. Pipe them as evenly as you can in blobs (like a teardrop). Do not flick the piping bag or when it bakes, it will form ugly cracks and seams and it would not rise neatly and evenly.
8. Egg wash the gorgères with a brush and at the same time flatten down the little tips. This is to ensure that the tips do not burn. You can choose to sprinkle some extra grated cheese on the top if you like.
9. Bake immediately at 165° C , fan forced oven or 180° C in a regular convection oven about 35-40 minutes. Gorgères must be thorougly baked. if the sides of the walls are moist, when removed from the oven, steam will condense back into water and the still-wet walls will recoil. This will cause them to collapse/ and flattened itself.
*My gorgeres are piped a lot smaller than my choux pastry in my previous post and they are baked for a pretty long for its size. You really need to dry them out as the cheese contributes moisture to the choux as well.
*You can pipe a tray of gorgères on a tray, freeze it. And when the shape is set, pick them up and store them in a box in a freezer. You can bake these gorgères fresh whenever you have unannounced visitors over. Bake these without defrosting using the above instructions but allow them to bake longer until they are golden brown and dry.
*Gorgères are best served fresh out of the oven or you can keep them in an air-tight container for a 2-3 days and reheat them for a couple of minutes for the best results.