Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook simply for the sake and pleasure of it. That is, after all, what this whole blog is about – learning to enjoy cooking and treating yourself to healthy and delicious meals. But sometimes I like to cook to impress the pants off people. And it works out really well when the food you make to impress people is deceptively, almost shockingly easy to make.
That’s how I feel about gougères, which is the fancy French name for what are essentially puffy, cheesy little dough balls. They look so elegant and taste so light and refined that I always feel like a super fancy chef when I make them. The reality is that these guys are pretty basic and easy to make once you get the hang of it, but we won’t tell your friends that, ok? OK.
Before making gougères I started making cream puffs for my dad and me (that was actually my very first post on this blog!), which are filled with a rosewater cream that he and I both adore. When I moved to France, I discovered the savory version of cream puffs, which has the same “choux pastry” base and which are often served as little “amuse-bouches” at bistros and restaurants in Paris.
The first time I made them for a party, I overheard a few people (who had no idea I made them) say to their friends, “hey, these are delicious!” That might be one of the most rewarding things about cooking, when I hear others compliment my food without knowing that I made them or that I can hear them. Of course,when the opposite happens it’s just sad times all around, but we won’t focus on that
So while this isn’t a recipe for one person I’d love to share with you how I make my gougères, a recipe that is really easy to master once you get familiar with the process and how things should look. Basically, you start by mixing some butter, flour and milk in a saucepan (I used nonfat milk – I mean we’re already putting in a stick of butter, let’s keep it somewhat healthy here!).
You then add flour, and continuously whisk everything together with a wooden spoon until a ball forms and the mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the pan. Kind of like this:
Next transfer this doughy, buttery ball to a bowl, and add your eggs one at a time.
Now is when the fun begins, and you can mix the dough ball with your cheesy and delicious ingredients. Typically gougères are made with Gruyère or Emmental cheese, but I like to include a mix of mimolette and Gruyère to add a little more flavor depth (mimolette is a hard, bright orange cheese that comes from around Lille, France. I prefer aged mimolette, whose flavor I would liken to an extra sharp aged cheddar). I had some chives in my fridge so I threw those in too, but you certainly don’t have to. Which cheese do you think you would add? I also think these puffs would be very happy with a healthy dose of cayenne pepper. Just something to think about.
Here is when recipes will ask you to transfer your mixture to a pastry bag in order to pipe out the contents into little mountains which go into the oven. Don’t have a pastry bag? Great, neither do I! Instead you can snip off about a 1/2-inch slit from the corner of a plastic bag, and use that in its place.
Pop these party animals into the oven, and voila – you’ve made super fancy, chef-looking gougères! Sit back, relax, and watch your friends bite into these crunchy balls of cheese with a light and fluffy center, and enjoy all of the compliments they shower on you. They’re pretty lucky you’re around.
The best part? Once you’ve made these, you can store them in plastic bags in the freezer for up to 3 months! Just reheat for a couple of minutes in the oven to get them warm again.
Enjoy my friends, and I wish you a very happy, fulfilling, and successful week ahead.
Adapted from a recipe by Alain Ducasse in Food & Wine Magazine1/2 cup milk (nonfat or lowfat ok)
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large pinch salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 cup assorted shredded cheese, such as Gruyere, mimolette, or sharp cheddar (about 3 1/2 ounces/100 grams total)
1 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)
freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, melt butter, milk and water until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add flour and a large pinch of salt, and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until ball forms and it no longer sticks to sides of the pan, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Transfer ball to a mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add in one egg at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the cheese and chives, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. You might want to add an extra pinch of salt for good luck.
4. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 round tip or into a plastic bag with a 1/2-inch slit cut off one of the corners. Pipe tablespoon-sized mounds of the mixture onto the baking trays, spaced about 2 inches apart. Cook in oven until golden on the outside and puffed up, about 20 minutes.