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Gougères. Sounds French and Fancy!
Well, they actually are pretty fancy and definitely French. Gougère, or cheese puffs can be a bit tricky at first. Once you get the hang of it though, you’ll be very likely to enjoy success with them. Rich, yummy success!
Gougères are a savory version of cream puffs or eclairs, which are also made from choux pastry. These are all very handy recipes to have on hand if you have a bunch of chickens. Lots of chickens usually mean lots of eggs and all choux pastry types doughs use lots of eggs. Though our customers generally keep up with the amount of eggs we have, occasionally we end up with some excess, and that is where these Herbed Cheese Gougères come in.
And, my herbs are probably going to take a hit when we get a frost here in the next few days, so why not intensify the flavors with some garlic chives and fresh thyme?
I first made these probably 30 years ago, when I ran across the recipe in a magazine. I served them at a New Year’s Eve party. All of our friends were totally amazed because none of us had ever heard of them before. It might have been the start of something big, but then we had kids, and my expertise in the kitchen shifted to things like toasted cheese sandwiches, and making sure no foods touched any other foods on anyone’s plate, so I forgot about them.
The recipe card was still in my file box though, and I am very happy to have rediscovered them now.
It’s a method
Choux, or if you want to be really fancy, pâte à choux, is an egg and flour based dough. It is the method by which the ingredients are combined that gives choux dough that puffy shape, with a crispy outside, and a light, airy inside. Butter, water, and milk are brought to a simmer, flour is mixed in and then cooked for a couple minutes. Eggs are beaten in, one at a time until you achieve a smooth, glossy dough.
For cream puffs and eclairs, nothing more is usually added at this point, but for Gougères, of course, you need cheese. In the case of these Herbed Cheese Gougères, freshly snipped herbs are stirred in, along with the cheese. The very traditional French version uses Gruyère. Not my favorite kind of cheese, to be honest. I used a mixture of very sharp cheddar, asiago, and romano. You can combine whatever kinds of cheese you prefer.
How it should look at each stage
Here are the 4 main stages of making choux, so you can see what you’re looking for as you go along. Flour mixed with butter, water, milk, eggs added, cheese and herbs added and on the baking sheet.
The cheese in these might keep them from puffing up quite as much as a cream puff, but you’re not going to mind.
Herbed Cheese Gougères
- ½ cup Water
- ½ cup Milk
- 4 ounces Butter
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- Few grinds fresh pepper
- 1 cup All-purpose Flour
- 4 Large Eggs room temperature
- 5 ounces Finely Grated Dry Cheese divided
- 1 tablespoon Minced Fresh Herbs
- Preheat the oven to 400º, and line heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, heat milk, water, butter, and salt, until butter is melted.
- Keep pan over low heat, and add flour all at once, stirring constantly.
- Continue to stir until the mixture is uniform, and has pulled away from the sides of the pan, forming a ball around the spoon.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and let it rest for about 5 minutes, to cool the mixture slightly.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each one, before adding the next. Work quickly, especially the first one, so the eggs don't cook at all in the warm flour mixture. At the start of adding each egg, it is going to feel as though it will never come together, but just keep mixing, and it will. This can be done with a mixer if you prefer. I like a wooden spoon better though.
- Once all 4 eggs have been completely mixed in, add 4 ounces of the cheese and the herbs, mixing until uniformly blended.
- For the cheese, you can use any kind that is fairly dry. Gruyere is traditional, but I used a mixture of extra sharp cheddar, asiago, and romano.
- You can use a pastry bag to pipe these onto the baking sheets, but I find my smallest cookie scoop works as well. If you have any sort of peak on them once they are on the pan, wet your finger, and gently pat it down – otherwise, you will have little burned points on the finished puffs.
- Top each puff with a little sprinkle of the remaining cheese, and place sheet pans in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Lower heat to 375, and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
- Pierce the side of each puff with a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife, and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes, until the tops are a deep, golden brown. [if you forget the piercing part, it is not the end of the world, so don’t overbake them just to get that part in] Cool briefly and serve warm.
- You can prepare them ahead, right up to the baking and let them sit for a few hours, until you need them. Or, you can portion them out on parchment-lined sheets, and then stick them in the freezer for a few hours, and then place them in a freezer container of some sort for up to a month. Bake them right from the frozen state as outlined above, and they will taste just as good as the ones you bake right away. This is especially handy if you are preparing some things ahead for a party, because it makes it so easy to get them ready when you need them.
Look at that – the perfect start to any party, wouldn’t you say?