Hi, it’s Mike again! I had another Wednesday to myself, so I made some gougères and I wanted to share that you don’t have to be a French pastry chef to make these delicious savory cheese puffs. Before starting, I had already had a full day of work, had my second Crossfit session ever, shopped at the grocery store for a whole bunch of food, and fixed my car in the dark – so I promise these are easy.
These are all you need for ingredients – 5 eggs, a cup of flour, a stick of butter, some Gruyere cheese, and nutmeg (not pictured). Gruyere hasn’t been hard to find these days, I’ve seen it in every supermarket that has prepackaged cheese in a refrigerated case. You need a quarter pound for the recipe, plus a little extra to snack on once you get a whiff of how deliciously nutty it is.
Melt the butter a cup of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. See that whisk? Don’t use a whisk. I had forgotten that this is much easier to do with a wooden spoon. Once boiling, add the cup of flour all at once and stir vigorously with the wooden spoon over medium heat. This will be the first of many times you’ll think you’ve ruined the recipe, but keep going.
In under a minute, the dough will pull away from the sides and form a hot buttery ball. Keep stirring over the heat for another minute or two. Remove from the heat and let it cool a little, for about 3 minutes.
Still off the heat, add an egg and beat it in with the wooden spoon. “Oh no, it separated!” Just keep stirring and those slippery dough bits will smooth out into a thick batter. Do this for another 3 eggs. Pick up a spoonful of the batter – it should be thick enough to hold a peak but should also fall off the spoon. If too thick, add the 5th egg. I’ve always ended up having to add it.
What we have now is “pâte à choux”, which is also the basis for cream puffs and a number of other yummy things. But we’re going to add cheese to make it a savory puff.
Toss in a heap of finely grated Gruyere, about 4 ounces. Grate 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg into the pot (You can use already it ground, but I promise that whole nutmeg is worth it for everything you’ll add it to. Don’t skip the nutmeg). Also add in 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper, then stir it all together.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. You can butter them, but parchment makes it so much easier. At this point, the French pastry chef will load the dough into a pastry bag and pipe beautiful little mounds onto the sheet. I don’t like cleaning pastry bags, so I avoid using them. Instead, I just use a spoon and drop about a tablespoon of dough into little 1-inch balls, coaxing them into kind of a round shape with my finger.
The mounds might look pretty rough. You’d get thrown out of culinary school for “piping” gougeres that look like this. But there’s another trick – dab your finger into some cold water, and tap on the rough peaks/edges to smooth them out. The water keeps the dough from sticking to your finger and re-peaking. This lets them bake up nice and smooth.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. If you put both sheets in at once, switch them halfway through. They’re best served warm. You can make them days ahead, let them cool and put in the freezer, then reheat in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes. They’re great just like this as an appetizer, but they are also hollow, so you can put stuff in them! I like to poke a little hole in the side with a knife and stick a small piece of blue cheese inside.
So what did I learn on Wednesday?
- Crossfit is hard.
- Despite what the factory manual and all of the auto forums say, you do NOT need to remove the bumper to change the headlight bulb on an ’05 Audi A4.
- To remove a stubborn coil pack from an Audi 2.0T engine, you don’t need their $50 “coil puller tool”, just use 2 flat blade screw drivers inserted into the groove on the side, and pull up gently.
- Freshly baked gougeres make the whole house smell awesome.
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 4oz Gruyere cheese (about 1 - 2 cups grated)
- ¼ teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Put water, butter, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Make sure butter is melted.
- Reduce heat to medium, add the flour all at once. Don't worry about how it looks.
- Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to form a dough that pulls away from the sides; about 30 seconds.
- Cook for another minute or two while stirring; this removes excess moisture.
- Remove from the heat, let cool for 3 minutes.
- Add 4 of the eggs, one at a time and beat in with the spoon. The dough will break apart and look ruined, but keep stirring and it will smooth out into a batter.
- Batter should hold peaks, but still fall from a spoon. If it is too stiff, add the 5th egg.
- Stir in the grated cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.
- Spoon tablespoons of batter into round mounds on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and crisp. If under-baked, they will collapse as they cool (But still taste just as good). If baking 2 sheets at once, switch racks halfway through.
- Serve warm. Can be made ahead. Store in the refrigerator for a day, or in the freezer until they get freezer burned (about 2 weeks). Rewarm in a 350 oven until hot again.