Working with pàte à choux is almost magical. You combine milk, water, butter and four, add eggs, and voilà, you have dough for sweet cream puffs or profiteroles. Then you add cheese and it becomes gougères. You could use Gruyère, Comté, Emmenthal or extra sharp cheddar. They are a welcoming treat and are especially good with champagne.
Although you must spoon out the puffs as soon as the dough is made, the little puffs can be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer. This puts them in the realm of the doable even on the spur of the moment.
This recipe is from AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE, by Dorie Greenspan. This is a delightful book about food and France.
1/2 cup whole milk 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or cheddar (about 6 ounces). The measurement most accurate here is by weight. You want a fair amount of cheese and you’ll find the cup measurement of grated cheese considerably less.
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425F Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. This recipe makes a lot of these little darlings. If you can’t get them all on the two sheets, but the third sheet of gougères in the freezer.
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. I prefer the feel of a wooden spoon. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring – with vigor – for another minute or two to dry the dough and cook the flour. The dough should now be silky smooth.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer 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 egg at a time, 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 if the dough separates – by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made , it should be spooned out immediately.
Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds.
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F. 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.
The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and when they’re solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer – no need to defrost – just give them a minute or two more in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept at room temperature overnight and reheated in a 350F oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving. Now let’s open that bottle of wine, put Diane Krall on the CD player, and enjoy your Friday evening in front of the fire.