Gougères are cheesy, light puffs made with pâte à choux, the “cream puff” batter. They are wonderful as hors d’oeuvres, appetizers or wine-tasting-palate-cleansers. They can be stuffed with a savory filling for a more substantial bite.
LET’S GEEK OUT WITH A LITTLE BAKING SCIENCE:
All baked goods rise because air in the batter or dough expands when heated. The air bubbles are trapped in a network of protein and/or starch and form the “crumb”. The air bubbles can be formed by different means for different recipes.
Pate a Choux, the batter that is the base for these Gougeres, is interesting because the rise is created by a big release of steam. The high proportion of liquid and protein in this batter work together to create the special “crumb”, which is essentially a giant air pocket trapped in a crisp shell.
In the oven, as the outside of the cream puff begins to set, the batter inside still has lots of moisture. As the moisture heats up and forms steam, this pushes the batter out and forms the large air cavities.
Pate a Choux batter has a high proportion of protein from the flour and eggs, which forms a strong shell around the air. The stronger the shell, the higher it can expand. When I make cream puffs I want maximum crispness and maximum capacity for the creamy filling. For this reason I use extra egg whites in my cream puff batter.
For Gougeres, I make the batter slightly richer by using only whole eggs instead of extra egg whites. Of course, I added cheese. Gruyere is the traditional cheese for gougeres. I added plenty of shredded gruyere both in and on the batter. I also added a hint of nutmeg and black pepper to enhance the cheesy flavor.
Personally, I prefer Gougeres without any filling. I like the custardy interior and light as air texture. Of course, you could mix up a savory cream cheese or goat cheese filling for a more substantial hors d’oeuvres.
- 1 cup (8 oz, 236ml) water
- 1/4 cup (2 oz, 56g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup (5 oz, 140g) bread flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature, whisked
- 2 cups (8 oz, g) shredded Gruyère cheese, divided in 1/2
- Combine the water, butter, salt, nutmeg and pepper in a saucepan. Bring the water to a full boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Vigorously stir the batter until the flour is absorbed and there are no lumps.
- Return the pan to medium low heat and continue stirring for 3 minutes. The batter will come together and form a smooth, cohesive ball.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the batter to a food processor fitted with a blade (if mixing by hand transfer to a mixing bowl). Add 1 cup of the Gruyère cheese. With the processor running, add eggs in a steady stream and mix until the batter comes together. (If mixing by hand add the eggs in three batches. After each addition, stir vigorously until the batter comes together.)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F convection or 400°F regular. Line a 1/2 sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat. Put a dab of batter into the four corners of the pan to stick the parchment to the pan.
- Scoop or pipe 1.5" mounds of batter onto the sheet pan, spaced about 2" apart. Sprinkle the tops of the gougères with the remaining cheese and bake until well puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
The baked gougères freeze very well. Pack them into freezer bags (don't overcrowd or crush) and freeze for up to a month. To use, line the frozen puffs on a sheet pan and heat in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes.
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