Due to my love of cheese, I wanted to try an easy cheese puff recipe. I've seen choux pastry being made everywhere - Julia Child talks about it, its an important know-how on Masterchef, youtube, cooking channel, you name it. And to think I haven't tried it even once, was a shame. So I tried these gougères on Christmas eve. This was also an accompaniment to the butternut squash soup which was the second course of our Christmas dinner.
The cheese used to make Gougères vary. I used Gruyère, but some like to use sharp or mild cheddar. You can use a mix of Gruyère and one-third part Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. David Lebowitz suggests using Mimolette but I haven't noticed this at my local grocery, but i'll look for it next time.
Credit: David Lebowitz
Ingredients:1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tablespoons (40g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (70g) flour
2 large eggs
12 chives, finely-minced (or 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme)
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces, 90g) grated cheese - I used Gruyère
Method:About thirty bite-sized puffs
Two things to keep in mind when making these. One is that you should have all the ingredients ready to go before you start. Don’t let the water and butter boil away while you grate the cheese. Otherwise you’ll lose too much of the water.
Second is to let the batter cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs so you don’t ‘cook’ them. Make sure when you stir in the eggs that you do it vigorously, and without stopping. This is where my hand mixer with the silicone whisk comes in handy.
If you don’t have a pastry bag with a plain tip, you can put the dough into a freezer bag, snip off a corner, and use that. Or simply use two spoons to portion and drop the dough onto the baking sheet. Or use an ice cream scoop. This recipe can easily be doubled.
1. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
2. Heat the water, butter, salt, and chile or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
3. Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook.’ The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. I used a hand mixer with the whisk attachment.
5. Add about 3/4s of the grated cheese and the chives, and stir until well-mixed.
6. Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.
7. Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, the pop the baking sheet in the oven.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F (190C) and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.
For extra-crispy puffs, five minutes before they’re done, poke the side of each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam, and return to the oven to finish baking.
Serving: The puffs are best served warm, and if making them in advance, you can simply pipe the gougères on baking sheets and cook right before your guests arrive, or reheat the baked cheese puffs in a low oven for 5-10 minutes before serving. Some folks like to fill them, or split them and sandwich a slice or dry-aged ham in there, although I prefer them just as they are.
A bit of troubleshooting: The most common problem folks have with pâte à choux, or cream puff dough, is delated puffs. The usual causes are too much liquid (eggs), or underbaking. Make sure to use large eggs, not extra-large or jumbo, and use a dry, aged cheese, if possible. And bake the puffs until they’re completely browned up the sides so they don’t sink when cooling.
Notes: These smell very eggy, but that's how choux pastry smells like. Same reason why I'm not fond of eclairs. I'll need to find another cheese puff recipe that doesn't require eggs next time.