I had a culinary first recently: making the light, fluffy cheese puffs known as gougères. I don’t know too many people who make these delightful little snacks but after my first successful attempt I see no good reason not to.

Despite the French name, which I think automatically intimidates some of us who assume unfamiliar ingredients and techniques will be involved, gougères are easy to make and require ingredients that you very likely might already have on hand: milk, butter, cheese (cheddar will do), eggs, and flour. That’s it. Oh, and water and salt.

If you have people over for dinner or brunch and serve these pillowy cheese puffs warm from the oven, you will garner much praise in the form of oohs and ahs and possibly ooh la la.

Their dough is the same as sweet cream puffs or profiteroles, but with added cheese. One could use a variety of cheeses, but Comté, Emmenthal, Gruyère, or sharp cheddar are most often recommended. I like the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, which I’m including below, but David Lebovitz has a good recipe on his blog as well. I like that he adds black pepper and chives.

This weekend I will be making these for the second time for a garden party in Vermont. I plan to nose about in my parents’ herb garden to see what I could add to jazz these up, not that you need to. I also might double the recipe below, which makes about 35 puffs, so that each guest can have at least 2. Any less than that would be inhospitable, if not plain cruel.

Gourgères

1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c water
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 c all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 c coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or cheddar, about 6 ounces

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light sticky crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring “with vigor,” as Greenspan writes, for another minute or two to dry the dough.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. (You could also do this by hand.) Let the dough sit for a minute to cool, then add the eggs one by one and “beat beat beat,” making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made it should be spooned out immediately.

Use about 1 tbsp of dough for each gougère, dropping the dough from the spoon onto lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches of space in between. You could also use a pastry bag for this step, as shown in the photo.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and turn the oven down to 375. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the sheets, and bake another 12-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so as not to overbake. Serve warm or cool on racks.

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