Gougères: Little Pockets of Cheesy Goodness

I ran a story in the food section this week about gougeres by Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times. He said he’d been testing recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Around my French Table,” and noticed that her recipe for gougères (say: GOO-zhair) could be made ahead, frozen and popped in the oven later.

I’ll be honest — I have the book and had noticed the same thing, but was still too chicken to try it myself. Russ to the rescue. He tested and tested and tested (with a nice glass of wine by his side and the Lakers on TV, he says) and came up with a recipe, adapted instead from “The French Laundry Cookbook” by Thomas Keller.

The recipe takes somework, no doubt. But not too much. And since I had a pot of soup simmering on the stove, I figured a Sunday late afternoon was a nice time to try it. I ended up with a lovely little hors d’oeuvre and a bunch of gougères in the freezer for later. Come see how, after the jump.

Gougères are made from a dough called pate choux — or “thick paste.” It’s the same dough used for profiteroles, cream puffs and eclairs, and you make it in a pot, not a bowl. For pate choux, you only need a few ingredients: eggs, flour, water and butter. The cheese is for turning this recipe into gourgeres. You can call them cheese puffs if you like!

Water and butter into the pan. Bring to a boil:

Dump in the flour all at once:

Stir, stir, stir.

And stir.

And stir some more, until the dough pulls away from the pan, like so:

Let it cool down just a little bit. You’re going to be adding eggs —

— and you don’t want them to scramble.

Plop the ball of dough into the mixer and attach the paddle:

Go. The air will help cool the dough a little.

Slip in those eggs, one at a time:

And add your cheese. Whirrr!

It’s getting pretty sticky, and that’s OK:

Now would be the time to pull out your industrial-strength, professional pastry bag with a 3/8-inch tip. Of course, I do not have such a thing, so I tried to fancy one out of a freezer bag and a flimsy, piece of crap plastic tip I must have picked up at the Stop&Shop one afternoon.

This was a big mistake.

It was such a big mistake that you’re not going to see any more photos with this mess. It came out in strings — like those ones you spray at people on New Year’s Eve? — and the bag broke and got all over the counter.

So I used a tablespoon, coated in oil, and my hands, and shaped these balls:

They’re not perfect, but they’ll do. Next time I’ll either start out with the spoon method or get myself a nice pastry bag.

You must admit, that looks tasty, right?

I put most in the freezer. These, I cooked:

High at first, to set the shape and crisp the outside; then low to cook the inside and make the puff.

Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside.

Here, also is a step-by-step photo essay from the Los Angeles Times.

And there will be more for later!

By Russ Parsons on the Los Angeles Times

Total time: 1 hour, plus optional freezing time

Servings: Makes about 4 dozen gougères

Note: Adapted from “The French Laundry Cookbook”

1 cup water
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Pinch sugar
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) flour
4 to 5 eggs
1 1/4 cups grated Gruyère (5 ounces), divided
Freshly ground white pepper

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking sheets or parchment paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes).

3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. It should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and, if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in three-fourths cup of Gruyère and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.

4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a three-eighths-inch plain pastry tip with the gougères batter. Pipe the batter into 1-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères, as the mixture will spread during baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about one-half teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese. (At this point, the gougères can be frozen on the baking sheets until solid, then stored in the freezer in a tightly sealed container.)

5. When almost ready to serve, transfer the frozen gougères back onto the lined baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees until they puff and hold their shape, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until they are a light golden brown color, an additional 20 to 25 minutes. When you think the gougères are done, break one open; it should be hollow and the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist.

6. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougères while hot.

Each of 4 dozen gougères: 45 calories; 2 grams protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 28 mg cholesterol; 0 sugar; 87 mg sodium.

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