Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)
Think savory cream puffs with cheese mixed in but without filling. Hard cheeses like Gruyère and Emmental are traditional for making gougères, but softer cheeses are good too. Read the notes after the recipe for tips on how not to end up with soggy gougères if using softer cheese or cheeses.
Choux pastry (pâte à choux pronounced pat-a-shoo)
- 60 grams butter softened
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large whole eggs
- 1 cup shredded cheese or cheeses I used a combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack; feel free to use your preferred cheese or combination of cheeses
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or your preferred herb or herbs
Make the choux pastry
- Pour half a cup of water into a pan. Add the butter, sugar and salt. Heat until the butter melts.
- Take the pan off the heat, dump the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
- Put the pan on the stove and, over medium heat, cook the dough with constant stirring until it pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and beat for about a minute to cool the mixture.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. You should have a soft and sticky dough.
Assemble the gougères
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper or a silicone mat.
- If using bland cheeses (like mozzarella), you may want to season the pâte à choux with salt and pepper. Just mix them in until incorporated. Spoon the pastry dough into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
- Pipe the dough into rounds about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Position the piped dough at least two inches apart.
- Top the piped dough with shredded cheese or cheeses. Sprinkle with parsley.
- Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 375F and bake for another five to ten minutes or until the cheese puffs are golden and dry to the touch.
There are two techniques for making French cheese puffs. One is to make a basic pâte à choux, season it with ground pepper, mix in shredded cheese and herbs, then pipe the mixture into rounds and bake them. A second technique is to make the pâte à choux, optionally season it with pepper, pipe the dough into rounds, top the rounds with shredded cheese and sprinkle them with chopped herbs. Because I was using a soft cheese and a semi-hard cheese that contain more moisture than the traditional Gruyère, I opted for the second technique. See, I was worried that mixing the cheese and herbs into the pâte à choux before piping would add too much moisture to the dough and make my cheese puffs soggy. It was a good choice. The cheese puffs came out wonderfully light and crisp. See the hollow center? That’s just perfect. If you bake pâte à choux and the center isn’t hollow, you didn’t do it right. The center has to be hollow or, at the very least, with large air pockets, and the surface should be dry to the touch. The downside was that some of the cheese ran down and melted on the silicone mat. No waste, however, because the melted cheese browned and turned crisp. And because it was easy to peel the delicious mess off the silicone mat, we ended up snacking on crisp cheese chips too.
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