Gougères are made with choux pastry (pâte à choux) which might be one of the oldest doughs used in the kitchen. Allegedly Catherine de Medici’s chef was making the dough more than 500 years ago. It’s also the only dough I know that’s first cooked and then baked.
I love choux pastry’s versatility as you can use it for sweet or savoury dishes and it freezes really well. Over the years, I’ve fiddled with just about every aspect of the dough and how it’s baked. The traditional cheese for these puffs is Gruyère or Comté, but I’ve made them with pretty much anything hanging around in the fridge.
I now have to confess that when making these I don’t pipe the dough – sacre bleu! No, I just use a small ice cream scoop, so much quicker and easier and it results in bite-sizedness small puffs of cheesy perfection. Ideal as they’re often eaten standing up.
I usually serve gougères with white or sparkling wine, but they’re equally lovely with a light red wine. In their native region of Burgundy, they’re traditionally served with Kir, a mix of dry white wine and Kir is named for the mayor of Dijon, a city known for crème de cassis, pain d’épices (gingerbread) and mustard. Not a bad line-up!
Importantly, as I mentioned above, they’re freezable! While you can freeze baked puffs and then reheat them, I find it better to scoop the freshly made dough, freeze the puffs and then bake as many as I need when I need them. Freezing the dough means you can have fresh, hot puffs ready the minute friends arrive.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/(425°F)/gas mark7. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or greaseproof (parchment) paper.
2. Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a rapid boil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly start stirring energetically with a sturdy spatula or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough.
3. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl you can use to mix with a hand-mixer or a wooden spoon. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny.
4. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next and don’t be concerned if the dough falls apart. By the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. Once blended, the dough should be spooned or scooped out immediately.
5. Using a small scoop, drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving some space between each mound of dough.
6. Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 190°C/170°C fan/(375°F)/gas mark 5.
7. Bake for 12 minutes then, if not using a fan oven, rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are golden, firm and, of course, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so.
8. Serve warm, rather than piping hot.
Don’t mind if I do!