Goo – what? That’s about the response I got from my family when I announced I was planning to make these little gems to go along with my mom’s birthday dinner (which I was also making). Goo-zhair I told them, stringing the word out slowly. Blank faces continued to stare back at me. Little crispy, cheesy poufs? There was some recognition but still not all the way there. So I told them to just wait and see. And they did… then they gobbled them up.
For those of you wanting a little more description than “little crispy, cheesy poufs”, gougères are French cheese puffs, which are often served as appetizers. They are made from pâte à choux, which is the same type of pastry dough used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, and éclairs. The basic dough contains only water, butter, flour, and eggs. The steam produced during baking is what causes the dough to rise. The results are crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside. And addictive. Sort of like that certain junk food adage – once you pop, you can’t stop. At least you won’t want to.
GougèresAdapted from David Lebovitz
1/2 cup water
3 T. butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
1/4 tsp. salt
Few grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
12 chives, finely minced
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a medium pot, heat the water, butter, salt, and pepper until the butter is melted.
Add the flour all at once and stir rapidly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for two minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, working fast to make sure the eggs don’t start to cook. The dough will look lumpy at first but will smooth out after about a minute of stirring.
Stir in about 3/4 of each cheese and all of the chives.
Scoop the dough into a pastry bag or a large freezer bag with one corner snipped off, and pipe the dough into small balls (or mounds or lopsided blobs – depending on your piping skills). Don’t worry if they are not perfectly shaped, it won’t matter once they are baked.
Top each puff with a sprinkle of the remaining cheese, then place the baking sheet into the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are completely golden brown.
Makes about 30 gougères.
* To make in advance, David Lebovitz notes that you can pipe the dough ahead of time and bake when ready to serve, or bake the puffs ahead of time and warm for 5 to 10 minutes in a low-heat oven.