I used to make gougères for the Thanksgiving table. However, I ended up scolding everyone passing through my kitchen. As they came out of the oven, the smell tempted each person to pick up one or two “just to test them out”. With a family of seven, I found myself with few left for the afternoon feast. Now, I make them, plate them, and encourage noshing on them as a snack before my favorite holiday meal. After you get the hang of making them, I’m certain you will agree they are quite easy and gobbled up quickly as they come out from the oven. With a glass of champagne, they make a lovely passed hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party.
Nota bene: The most common issue with making gougère is that they deflate when removed from the oven. Most often this is caused by too much liquid, or undercooking. Make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. At first, adding the egg will make the dough look curdled. Don’t give up! The dough will come together beautifully in a few seconds. Be careful not to dry out the dough too much, or the bread will be heavy and lack a crispy exterior. No worries, they are still delicious, albeit not quite perfect.
To make extra crispy gougères, remove them from the oven 20 minutes into baking, poke each gougère in the side with a skewer to release the steam and return the baking sheets to the oven to finish baking. This method works particularly well if they will be made in advance and then rewarmed. Cooled gougères may be frozen and reheated straight from the freezer in a 350 degrees F. oven for a few minutes.
Cheddar cheese, or any other hard dry-aged cheese may be substituted for the Gruyère. Herbs may be beaten into the dough for a variation on this savory treat.
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup flour
4 or 5 large eggs
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely grated
1 egg, beaten for glazing
Maldon sea salt flakes
1 egg for egg wash
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two half sheet baking pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
2. Make an egg wash by whisking an egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, combine the water, salt and butter and heat gently until the butter is melted.
4. Wasting no time, turn up the flame on the melted butter to bring to a boil and as soon as it boils remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner.
5. Add the flour and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the pan to form a loose ball.
6. Beat another 30 seconds to 1 minute over the burner that was turned off but still warm to dry out the dough a bit.
7. Beat each egg thoroughly into the dough, one at a time. The fifth egg may or may not be needed, but use a bit or all of it until the dough is shiny and just falls off the wooden spoon. The dough will be too soft to hold a shape if too much egg is added.
8. Beat the Gruyere cheese into the dough.
9. Use a spatula to transfer the dough to a ½” plain tip pastry bag. Pipe 1 inch circles of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. For maximum puff and elegance, pipe vertically rather than in a mound. The mounds should be 1 inch in diameter by 1 inch tall.
10. Brush the mounds with the egg wash and sprinkle each with 2 or 3 flakes of Maldon sea salt.
11. Bake the mounds for 25 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Take one out at 25 minutes, let it cool for a minute and taste it. It may need a couple more minutes to be cooked enough on the inside. The texture should be crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside.