Gougeres are a French comfort food. Not a mac ‘n cheese kind of comfort food, but the kind that’s served fresh from the oven with a glass of wine or a cocktail. Or maybe stuffed with warm brie or some crab or smoked salmon and creme fraiche. The fun part is deciding how you want your gougeres (goo jeres)– small or medium in size, what kinds of cheese to add to the dough, or whether to stuff them with something substantial that works perfectly with a drink or as part of a small plates party.
Gougeres are made from the same pastry as cream puffs and eclairs except with cheese and herbs blended into the dough. Making the choux paste can appear intimidating, but I’ve written a blog with all the details you need to know for success. It’s worth reading this blog, and it’s a must read if you plan on making them gluten-free Read the tips here.
As far as the cheese goes, you can be creative but you do want harder cheeses like Gruyere, Cheddar, Fontina, Parmesan. I used a blend of four cheeses I found at Trader Joe’s that worked nicely — Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone. You can also decide what herbs you’d like to add. I recommend fresh if possible, but dried is fine. Just add less if you’re using dried herbs.
I stuffed little puffs with a blend of cow’s milk soft cheese and goat’s milk soft cheese. Mixing the two cuts the “goat” taste. I add finely chopped chives, thyme, sage, garlic, and parsley, a bit of lemon zest, sea salt and black pepper and just a couple of drops of vanilla, then dust it with smoked paprika. If the cheese is too thick, I add a dab of creme fraiche until it’s a good texture for spreading.
When I shared the gougeres with my neighbors after shooting the photos, they were thrilled. No one had heard of gougeres before and it really brightened their day.
1–1/2 cups water
6 ounces (1–1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
2 – 3 teaspoons sea salt
1–3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon Rain’s Choice ground Vanilla Bean Powder
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or sage leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cups grated cheese, such as a blend of Gruyere and Parmesan or sharp Cheddar and Provolone
1 egg, room temperature mixed, with 2 teaspoons water (not necessary if the puffs are to be frozen right away)
If you plan to bake the gougeres right away, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water, butter, and salt to a boil, making sure the butter melts before it comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once, mixing well. Return the pan to medium-high heat and stir, using a wooden spoon, until the batter pulls away from the sides. Turn the heat down to medium and stretch out and fold over the batter, exposing it to the heat but moving it continuously for about 3 minutes. What you’re doing here is drying the dough some so it will puff more and also activating the gluten in the flour. Remove from the heat and scrape the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer or a bowl to use with a hand mixer. Let the dough rest for about 2-3 minutes so that it cools some.
On slow speed add the eggs, one at a time. Do not add the next egg until the first one is completely incorporated. After each egg is added, increase the speed to medium and beat until the egg is completely incorporated. Beat well after all eggs have been added.
Add the herbs and cheese and beat until fully blended.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. If you are using a pastry bag, pipe the batter into half-dollar-sized rounds (or larger if you prefer) about 1-1/2 – 2 inches apart depending on the size of the puffs. You can also scoop the dough into mounds with a spoon. Smooth any points with a bread and butter knife knife or small spatula.
If you are planning to freeze the puffs, make them on a pan that will fit into the freezer. Freeze on the pan and then place into freezer bags. They will last well for 3 months.
If you are baking the gougeres right away, brush with the egg wash making certain not to spill the wash onto the sheet as it will harden in the heat and make it difficult to remove the puffs. If some spills, dab with a paper towel to remove it.
Place the baking sheet on top of the pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees F. Rotate the pan if your oven is hotter in the front or back. Continue to bake until the are golden and nicely puffed.
Remove from oven and, using a small, sharp knife, pierce each puff on the side to let steam escape. Turn off the oven and return the puffs for another five minutes or so. If you aren’t sure that they’re completely baked, open one up. The inside should be tender and moist, but not mushy.
Serve warm straight from the oven or allow to cool and fill.
To bake frozen puffs, follow the same directions as baking them right away. No need to thaw. Let the gougeres bake 20 minutes before lowering the heat.
Gougeres are delicious by themselves, but they make great containers for a large variety of fillings. Add a dab of warm brie or a soft cheese, smoked salmon and creme fraiche, crab or Bay shrimp salad, etc.