Sis blogging partner brought this idea to the table a couple of weeks ago. Gougere’s are basically French cheese puffs. I thought this was a fantastic idea since I’d recently purchased the cookbook, Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. The very first recipe in it is gougeres, telling me that they are a quintessential placeholder in must-haves for a simple yet pleasing appetizer. Cuz it’s cheese, y’all. And that cheese is puffy, and that puffiness is full of eggs and butter, yet they taste soooo deceptively light! Like so many baked goods that have gone before, they taste best right out of the oven. Oh man. Just try not to eat them too quickly because they can disappear fast. I’m not sure where the four or so I initially fixated on went. *whistle*
Sis and I agreed that this recipe is probably a little more advanced than a strictly quick and easy recipe, but what makes that bearable is that there are so few ingredients, and that you don’t have to use expensive Gruyere cheese to make great gougeres. Not that we don’t love Gruyere cheese. It is, like, the king of melting cheeses, but it is pretty expensive. We opted for a sharp white cheddar here and were very happy with the results.
I did remark to my sis, “We’re using Canadian cheddar in a French recipe.” She said, “It’s OK, they’re French descended in some of Canada.” Me, with a very unintelligent, “Oh yeah!”
It was hard to get a good, clear pic of this step. The blob above is the melted butter, milk, salt, and a little water, then the flour is dumped in and vigorously whisked for several minutes. It’s almost like you’re forming a gigantic roux, the cooked flour beginnings to a gravy, except these will become magically delicious and cheesy puffs. YUM.
The next step is to get out ye old stand or hand mixer and dump five eggs in one at a time, waiting till each is fully incorporated. I loved the recipe for assuring the cook that this part would seem as if the mixture would never come together, but that it does by the time the last egg is done mixing in. In fact, it looks a lot like melted cheese to me.
I think these assurances are what’s missing from a lot of recipes, because how does one know what to expect when they’ve never made a recipe before? It seems many cookbooks take their experience with the recipe for granted. In looking at Greenspan’s book, I notice she does these assurances constantly throughout, and I for one am grateful. It makes trying other recipes of hers out seem like more of a sure bet.
Cheese! Glorious cheese. In it goes to complete the last mixing step. You’re ready to bake cheese puffs!
The recipe advises immediately spooning out the puffs onto parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheets, and after a while I could see why. The mixture, while initially very wet and shiny, does start to dry out a little. If you wait between batches to spoon more out, you might meet with a little resistance from the mixture. We used a total of four baking sheets and spooned all the mixture out right away. This is the part where the puffs can be frozen for later baking.
And now – a snafu. We forgot on the first load of gougeres to turn down the preheated oven as the recipe instructed. What resulted were puffs that weren’t very puffy. But you know what? They still tasted aaawweeesome. MUNCH. Yeah, we had no problem eating them anyway.
Ah yes, there we go. Presentation-wise, that’s what a gougere should look like, yes? So light, so tasty. It’s like a standard American cheese cracker or straw, just the opposite in texture. Actually…an improvement if you ask me.
Delicate and fun, these little guys are a fantastic answer to a slightly fancier appetizer to serve to guests, but they’re simple enough to enjoy all on your own as well or at a casual get together. Serve with your favorite wine to make it a truly pleasurable experience and enjoy!
from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyere or cheddar
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add the 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 crust with form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring – with vigor – for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should now be very smooth.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl that you can use for mixing with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don’t be concerned f the dough separates – by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Scrape down the sides occasionally with a spatula. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately.
Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougere, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds. (We used clean fingers to push out all the dough from each tablespoon.)
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougeres are golden, firm and yes, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or transfer the pans to racks to cool.
These are definitely best the day they’re made. The day after, they become very different in texture, as most baked goods tend to. These become almost spongy. They taste the same, though, just that different texture. I prefer the just-made texture, but wonder if reheating them slightly in about a 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes might crisp them back up a little on the outside. Unfortunately I’ve not had time to try this prior to publishing this post. Still, I’d opt for making these the day you plan to serve them.
But to make the dough ahead of time and bake later, just freeze them on their trays and once frozen, pop them off and place in a freeze-safe container. They should be OK this way for a month or two (possibly more, the book didn’t specify). They can be baked according to the above directions right from the freezer, again being sure to line your pans with the parchment or silicone mats. This would be a great solution if you really need to plan ahead.