On Saturday night, with 45 minutes left to go before our friend Dara was due to drop by for drinks, I made a drastic decision. I decided to make gougères.
This seemed like a drastic decision because: (a) I didn’t have the right cheese in my refrigerator and (b) I’d have to dirty the kitchen and a bunch of dishes just before the arrival of a guest. Things would be messy, things might burn. This was dangerous drink-hosting and I was living right on the edge. That’s what made it all so exciting.
I decided to use a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s terrific “Around My French Table,” a recipe that requires either Gruyère or cheddar, neither of which I had (I only had Monterey Jack and goat cheese, neither of which would work). So to the store I ran and I came back with a block of Gruyère and a chilled white Burgandy, really embracing the Francophilia.
But here’s why this post is one for you to bookmark: once you have the cheese? Gougères really are a piece of cake. You just grate the cheese using a box grater:
Then, in a pot, you add milk, water, a stick of butter and salt. I decided to give it my own twist and added a pinch of cayenne and freshly grated nutmeg:
You bring that to a boil and add a cup of flour:
Then lower the heat and keep stirring, drying out the dough and allowing it to come together:
After two minutes, that goes into a mixer and you start adding the eggs (5 in all):
Finally, you add the cheese:
And voilà! You’ve got gougères dough:
Spoon the gougères on to parchment lined baking sheets:
I put one sheet in the freezer and plucked them off a few hours later, storing them in a freezer bag. Now I can have hot gougères for my next dinner party, straight from the freezer.
The others went into the oven (I forgot to lower the heat, as Dorie has you do in the recipe, but it really didn’t matter); 25 or so minutes later you have these:
That’s pretty impressive, right?
And just as they came out of the oven, Dara arrived. “What smells so good in here?” she asked.
“Hot gougères! Just for you.”
That’s one delighted drinks guest:
And really, all it took was cheese, butter, a pot, a mixer and a sheet pan. You have those things, right? So next time you have drinks at your place, surprise your guests with last minute Gougères. Your kitchen may be messier than you want, but hot French cheese puffs make it totally worth it.
Recipe: Last Minute Gougères
Summary: Hot-from-the-oven French cheese puffs adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.”
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A pinch of cayenne
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 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)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don’t feel like baking them all at once, you can freeze one tray).
- Bring the milk, water, butter, salt, cayenne and nutmeg to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and start stirring aggressively with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep going (you’ll work up a sweat!) for another minute or two until the dough is smooth and pretty dry.
- Now dump the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let it sit for one minute, then add the first egg and beat the dough until the egg is incorporated. Keep going until you’ve used all the eggs and the dough is thick and shiny.
- Beat in the grated cheese (at this point, Dorie says “once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately.”)
- Spoon out 1 tablespoon globs on to the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
- If you want to bake them all at once, place them both in the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 375. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are golden, firm, and puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. Serve warm.
You can actually use gougères as mini-sandwich bread; slice each in half and fill with a slice of prosciutto and fresh arugula for a surprising hors d’oeuvre.
Though I like cayenne and nutmeg, you can certainly play with the spices you use. Maybe a pinch of cumin for something a bit more exotic?
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: French