In America, we have Cheetos. In France, they have gougères. France: 1; America: 0.
Maybe that’s not the best comparison, but I can’t think of anything in America that quite compares to gougères. Maybe garlic bread, but then France still wins. Or popovers, which is closer, but not traditionally cheesey, so France still wins. Moral is: start making gougères.
Gougères are magical little creatures — I still don’t understand how the baking chemistry works — that start out as a really sticky dough made from butter, cheese, eggs, and flour, and become puffy balls of cheesey wonder after 30 minutes or less in the oven, with a crunchy outside and a gooey inside. They’re best fresh, but are yummy for days after, and are perfectly paired with a sweeter white wine, but will be happy with any white wine, sparkling wine, or rosé. They are an easy, splendid treat that I am going to add to my party repertoire. In future tries, I plan on pushing the quantity of cheese and black pepper as far as it will go (will report back), but for now, this recipe is pretty classic. And, most important to note, you serve these beauties fresh from the oven — just the right steamy/gooey/crunchy/cheesey way to start a meal.
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes about 24
– 1 cup water
– 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
– 3/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
– 4 large eggs, chilled
– 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Bring 1 cup water, butter, and salt to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking until butter melts. Add flour; stir rapidly with wooden spoon until flour absorbs liquid and forms ball, pulling away from sides of pan. Stir vigorously until film forms on bottom of pan and dough is no longer sticky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. (Watch carefully; it’s easy to scorch the pot – though not terrible to clean up, even if you do.)
3. Remove pan from heat; cool dough 2 to 3 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir in cheese and pepper.
4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Using damp fingertip, press down any peaks of dough.
5. Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes, reversing position of pans halfway through baking. Using small sharp knife, pry open 1 gougère to check for doneness (center should be slightly eggy and moist). Serve hot or warm.
Note: You can make gougères a few hours ahead and rewarm them for 5-10 minutes in a 350ºF oven. They are also delicious as room temperature leftovers, but are at their best fresh from the oven.