When I was in culinary school, we spent a considerable amount of time honing our pâte à choux skills. Choux pastry is a combination of eggs, flour, water and butter that results in a light fluffy pastry used for éclairs, cream puffs, and other pastries. I think we probably made it every way possible, but I never had the chance to make gougères, the savory puffs with cheese in the dough. I often saw the pastry class making them, even had the opportunity to try them, but waited in vain for the day our class would finally make them. Maybe I missed that day, who knows? It was many years ago and I had all but forgotten my desire to make gougères, when I came across a recipe for them in an old copy of Bon Appetit magazine. I was looking for ideas for a party and decided herb-flavored gougères would make the perfect cocktail snack and they did. I had a pile of fresh thyme that I didn’t want to lose and it turned out to be wonderful with the gruyère I used. You could vary the type of cheese you use and use any type of herb – an Italian version with parmesan and oregano, a fall version with sage and fontina…the possibilities for this recipe are endless.
Makes about 40
Please do not be put off by the difficulty level of this recipe. It’s actually quite simple to make and the results are well worth the trouble. These can easily be made ahead of time and frozen. Place frozen gougères on baking sheets in a preheated 325-degree oven and warm for 15 minutes.
6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick or 3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated gruyère cheese (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place butter, salt, and 1 cup warm water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil and stir until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour.
Place the pan back on the stove on medium heat and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes. Continue stirring for another 2 minutes. A dry film will form on the bottom and sides of the pan and the dough will no longer feel sticky. Mix in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated, then stir in the cheese, half of the thyme and the pepper.
Place the dough in a piping bag with a 1/2-inch round tip or a plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut from a corner. Pipe 1-inch rounds about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Whisk the last egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and brush it on the dough rounds. Sprinkle the rounds with the remaining thyme.
Bake the gougères until puffed up and golden; 20-25 minutes. They will dry out in the center and will sound hollow when you tap them.
Adapted from Bon Appetit