Gougeres are the easiest and also the hardest hors d’oeuvre to cook.
I say that because they are easy to make once you get the knack. But I admit, they’re a little tricky for first-timers, so you need a few pointers. Which I am going to give you here.
Then once you make them a couple of times you can practically do it in your sleep.
Also, gougeres are extremely useful. I serve them plain, heated to a crisp. But sometimes I serve them at room temperature, cut open and stuffed with all sorts of fillings from plain old egg salad to toasted nuts with cheese or smoked salmon tartare.
And sometimes I fill them with things like mushroom ragout or ratatouille and serve them hot.
Of course, if you make the gougere dough without the herbs and cheese they are …. profiteroles. Which you can fill with ice cream!
Or you can make bigger ones and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream or custard, the way my mother did, and call them Cream Puffs.
It’s all the same dough. The method is the same, so once you get the knack you have this extraordinarily versatile recipe.
I always have gougeres in my freezer. Just in case company comes. Like my daughter Meredith, who loves them and always heats up a few for herself when she’s here.
Or for dinner company or weekend guests, which I am having this weekend.
Or to celebrate Bastille Day, tomorrow, because, well, this is a French recipe. Called choux.
Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
pinch cayenne pepper
egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, optional
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.* Add the herbs, cheese and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly.
Butter and flour a baking sheet. Drop 3/4 to 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. For a shiny surface on the puffs, lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg wash. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Or cut them open and fill them. Makes about 60
*Incorporating the eggs is what most people find difficult. Be sure to add them one at a time. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to help you. The mixture will be sticky and at first you think it will never come together, but keep mixing and you’ll see that it does come together. After each egg is incorporated the mixture becomes softer and pastier and stickier. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.