Makes: about thirty 1½ in [4 cm] hors d’oeuvres, or eight to ten 4 in [10 cm] pastries
Gougères are made from one of the mainstays of French classical baking, pâte à choux, or choux paste. It is what éclair shells, crullers, and cream puffs are made from, the dough rising from the large amount of egg mixed in, and the steam that forms as it bakes, raising the elastic dough. They are crisp on the outside, and soft and eggy inside, creating the perfect form to fill like a sandwich with sliced meat or charcuterie, or greens.
These have a hefty amount of black pepper to balance the richness of the cheese in the dough; we use Gruyère, but Cheddar, Swiss, or any of the lower-moisture cheeses work well. The dough is very forgiving, so you can add or subtract flavours easily and make the recipe yours. Try duxelles (minced sautéed mushrooms and shallot), caramelized onions, chopped herbs, pimentòn, or curry. They are best eaten the day they are baked, but you can refresh them in a hot oven for a few minutes if older than a day.
KITCHEN NOTES: Don’t be tempted to use whole milk instead of nonfat. Because of the amount of butter and cheese, the batter is rich, and the whole milk will cause the Large-Size Gougères to fall. If you do not have nonfat milk, use half water and half whole milk, or just water. To make them ahead, spoon the batter onto the baking sheet, freeze, and store covered in the freezer. The small 1 in [2.5 cm] gougères can be baked straight from the freezer (increase the baking time by 5 to 10 minutes), whereas larger ones need to be defrosted prior to baking.
For the choux paste
- Nonfat milk 300ml
- Unsalted butter 140g
- Salt 1 tsp
- All-purpose flour 140g
- Large eggs 5
- Grated Gruyère cheese, plus more for sprinkling 85g
- Black pepper, freshly ground 1 tsp
- Fresh thyme, minced 1 Tbsp
For the egg wash
- Large egg 1
- Salt pinch
1Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
2To make the choux paste, combine the milk, butter, and salt in a heavy saucepan, and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass, it pulls away from the sides of the pan, and some of the moisture has evaporated. This will take about 3 minutes.
3Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a heatproof mixing bowl. If using a mixer, add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next. When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand, add the cheese, pepper and thyme, and mix in with a rubber spatula. If making by hand, add the eggs one at a time to the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon, incorporating each egg before adding the next one, then proceed as directed for the mixer method.
4Transfer the contents of the bowl to a pastry bag fitted with a 1⁄2 in [12 mm] (no. 6 or 7) plain tip, adding only as much to the bag as is comfortable to work with. Pipe 1 in [2.5 cm] mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 11⁄2 in [4 cm] apart. Or, use a spoon to drop the dough in 1 in [2.5 cm] mounds.
5To make the egg wash, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt, and then gently brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Lightly sprinkle the top of each pastry with a little cheese.
6Place the pastries in the oven immediately and bake until they have puffed, are nicely browned, and feel light for their size, about 25 minutes. These are delicious served hot or warm, or are also good at room temperature. Or, let cool completely, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days, and recrisp in a 180°C oven for 5 minutes.
7Large-Size Gougères Variation: To make 4 in/10 cm gougères, use a large spoon to form 3 in [7.5 cm] rounds about 1 in/ 2.5 cm high on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 in [5 cm] apart. Brush with the egg wash and top with the cheese. Bake until they have puffed, are light for their size, and are golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and poke a small hole in the side of each pastry to allow steam to escape. Releasing the steam keeps them from collapsing (this step is unnecessary for the small ones). If splitting and filling, let cool to room temperature; otherwise, they may be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.
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