If I have a signature appetizer, it is gougères (pronounced goo-zhairs) — an irresistibly light French pastry, made with Gruyère cheese. I’ve made thousands, maybe more. I served them warm at the start of each cooking class, filling my teaching kitchen with the enticing aroma of freshly baked pastry. I’m convinced it was the warm gougères that brought my students back for more. The dough, choux (pronounced shoe) pastry or pate a choux, is easy to master and, best of all, can be frozen and thawed before baking. That means fresh-from-the-oven appetizers anytime.
Gougères are scrumptious au natural but they can also be halved to sandwich any filling. I sometimes line the pastry with crisp greens and fill them with hand-peeled shrimp, tossed in a lemony dill mayonnaise.
Choux pastry can also be used for sweet profiteroles, eclairs and numerous other desserts. Traditional profiterole recipes omit the Gruyère cheese but I leave the cheese in — it’s subtle and gives the profiteroles a certain je ne sais quoi. To make sweet profiteroles, simply fill the baked and cooled pastries with whipping cream, ice cream or my favourite, pastry cream mousseline (pastry cream “lightened” with whipping cream). You can find a recipe for pastry cream mousseline, by scrolling down my Savarin recipe, where I’ve used it as the cake’s filling.
A pastry bag is not essential for preparing gougères but you’ll have nicer shaped gougères if you use one. Alternatively, a small ice cream scoop will help distribute the sticky dough into nice, even shapes. Note: I’ve baked thousands of gougères over the years and discovered that what puffs beautifully in one oven, does not necessarily in another. An inexpensive oven thermometer will ensure your pastries have the essential blast of heat (425ºF) at the start.
Makes About 48
■ 1 cup 2% or whole milk
■ 1 cup water
■ 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
■ 2 tsp salt
■ 2 tsp sugar
■ 2 cups all-purpose flour
■ 4 – 5 eggs, plus 1 egg for the glaze
■ 1 cup Gruyère cheese (more or less, if desired)
■ baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat
■ disposable piping bags (optional)
Preheat oven to 425ºF
In a large saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar. Bring the mixture to a full boil. Remove from the heat, and add the flour all at once; stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
If using an electric mixer, transfer the dough to the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon). Add four eggs to the dough, one at a time, ensuring each egg is absorbed before adding another.The mixture is ready when the dough forms a thick ribbon that is firm enough to be dropped from a spoon (or piped with a pastry bag) onto a baking sheet. If the mixture is too firm, add another egg. Add the grated cheese.
Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe round mounds approx. 2 cm (¾”) diameter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or two between each mound. (If not using a pastry bag, simply spoon the dough onto the baking sheet.)
Brush the top of each mound with the beaten egg and gently press down with a fork. Set aside for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350ºF (175ºC) and bake for another 15–25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Test one gougère to ensure it is cooked in the centre. If the mixture is cooked on the outside, but not the inside, turn the oven off and leave the pastries until cooked all the way through.
Join The Discussion