In case you missed it, I wrote about gougères on Tuesday and how the French cheese puffs are my house specialty. You can be sure that I didn’t set out to make a house special: I’m not that kind of girl – doing that would have taken planning and organization, neither of which are my strengths. Instead, the dish became a fan favorite, friends loved them and so I kept making them and making them and making them … And now, thousands of puffs later, they’re what people expect when they come to visit. And I’m good with this.
Gougères are made with cream puff dough, pâte à choux, which might be one of the oldest doughs used in the kitchen – 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. Anyone know of another???
And, as we say around the internet these days, I’m obsessed with it. And have been for decades. Any dough that can be run through with cheese or served with ice cream and hot chocolate sauce (you use pâte à choux to make profiteroles) is a dough I love.
Over the years, I’ve fiddled with just about every aspect of the dough and how it’s baked. Of course, I’ve changed the cheese. The traditional cheese for these puffs is Gruyère or Comté, but I’ve made them with Mimolette, cheddar (including bagged shredded cheddar from the supermarket), Parm and a mix of whatever shreddable/grateable cheeses I’m had in the fridge. Sometimes, when I’m using cheddar, I add a bit of smoked cheese to the mix. In EVERYDAY DORIE I made gougères with cheddar and walnuts. And in my newest book, BAKING WITH DORIE, I’ve got a chapter devoted entirely to pâte à choux. There, the gougères, which can also be shaped as sticks, are made with Gouda and cumin!
When I started making gougères, I piped out the dough, just the way I’d seen chefs do. Then, I spooned the dough out – the puffs weren’t as even, but they were just as tasty. Finally – and happily – I decided to shape the dough using a cookie scoop. It’s been my tool of choice ever since. In the beginning, I used a medium scoop, but these days I use a small one – I like the bite-sizedness of small puffs, especially since they’re often being eaten standing up. A small puff is the perfect nibble with wine.
Speaking of wine – I usually serve gougères with white or sparkling wine, but they’re lovely with a light red wine. In their native region of Burgundy, they’re traditionally served with Kir, a mix of white wine and crème de cassis. Kir is named for the mayor of Dijon, a city known for crème de cassis, pain d’épices (like gingerbread) and mustard. Not a bad line-up for one place.
And gougères have one more enticement, one that's really, really terrific: They're freezable! You can freeze baked puffs and then reheat them, but the best thing to do - and the most practical - is to scoop the freshly made dough, freeze the puffs (see Storing, below) and then bake as many as you need when you need them. (I usually make a double batch of dough for the freezer.) Freezing the dough means you can have fresh, hot puffs ready the minute friends walk through the door. Confession: As much as I love gougères, if I couldn't keep a stash of ready-to-bake puffs in the freezer, I'm sure they'd never have become "my" dish.
This recipe for gougères is old-school, but please, use a cookie scoop if you’d like, and use whatever cheese you love. And if you find a combo that's liked by you and everyone you serve it to, remember to write it down. You’d hate to forget the recipe that could become your house special.
Happy weekend. See you Tuesday!
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xoxoDORIE GOUGÈRES - THE OG VERSION
Makes about 36 medium puffs
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
4 ounces (113 grams; 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt salt
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces; 170 grams) coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Cheddar (see above)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
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 – with vigor – another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough.
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 and elbow grease. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny. 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 out immediately.
Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between each mound of dough. Or use a cookie scoop to shape the dough.
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 12 minutes, then 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.
Although they’re good at room temperature, I love gougères straight from the oven.
Storing: The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and then when they’re solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer – no need to defrost – although they may need a few extra minutes in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept overnight and reheated in a 350 degrees F oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.