As a basic level pastry student at Le Cordon Bleu, one begins to view choux pastry as ubiquitous.  The beginner makes choux in every shape and size imaginable.  It is the basis for many of the classic French pastry applications and by the end of the Basic session you will either love it or hate it.  It was, for a time, the bane of my existence.  Not the pastry, but the shaping and filling and glazing, and getting all that done in the time allotted.  We made puffs filled with pastry cream, eclairs glazed with fondant, swans filled with Chantilly, and the classics:  Paris Brest, St. Honore, and Croquembouche.  And then we made them all again, in miniature sizes, as petits fours!  But the one variation that we did not make is pictured here today.  The gougere is a savory version of choux pastry and one that every cook should have in her/his culinary repetoire.  Your guests will think you very clever indeed if you appear from your kitchen carrying a basket of these little beauties, still warm from the oven.  They are the perfect pre-dinner snack; light as air, full of flavor, and completely adaptable to a make-in-advance plan.  Choux pastry can be made entirely in one pot, no need to pull out the big appliances, just think of it as a bit of an upper body workout.  If you’re not adept with a pastry bag, simply spoon the dough onto your baking sheets and carry on.  You can freeze the dough once it’s shaped and bake the gougeres as you need them, or freeze the baked and cooled gougeres.  In the latter case, you will only need to crisp them briefly in a hot oven before serving.  The prepared choux pastry can also be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for a day.  For the ultimate savory treat fill your gougeres with Mornay sauce or your favorite savory filling.  So give choux pastry a try, you’ll be glad you did.

Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)
(makes about one to four dozen puffs, depending on size)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.  In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan bring to a simmer:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
When the liquid is bubbling and the butter is completely melted add:
1 scant cup unbleached all-purpose flour (4 ounces)
Stir vigorously with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.  With the heat at medium, continue to cook the dough for a minute or two.  A thin film will form on the bottom of the pot.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the dough for a minute or two to cool slightly.  Then beat in, one at a time:
4 large eggs
At first the dough will seem loose and slippery, but it will come together as each egg is blended in.  Raise your spoon from the pot and check to see if the dough falls in a smooth sheet from the spoon.   If neccessary, beat an additional egg in a small bowl and drizzle in a little until the consistency is smooth and soft.  (Reserve this additional egg for the egg wash to be used on the puffs before baking).  When the eggs are completely incorporated into the dough, stir in:
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese (grate a little extra cheese to sprinkle over the puffs before baking)
A generous grind or two of fresh white pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip.  Pipe rounds on your baking sheet in the desired size (you can make them small for bite-size puffs or golf ball sized for serving with a savory filling).  Brush the puffs with an egg wash made by beating together:
1 egg
1 to 2 teaspoons water
Mark the tops of the puffs with the tines of a fork and sprinkle with a little additional grated cheese, if you like.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  During this time, do not open the oven door!  The gougeres will not puff if you do so.  After the initial 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake the gougeres until they are golden and nicely puffed.  Remove one from the sheet and cut into it to determine that the interior is cooked.  It should be mostly hollow, with a little soft dough, not wet or heavy.  Remove the gougeres from the baking sheet and serve immediately, to an appreciative audience.



Leave a Comment