Gougères are a delicious appetizer (or snack!) made using a savoury choux pastry dough. You can think of them as little French cheese puffs! They’re airy, cheesy, bite-sized delights…except, you probably won’t stop at one just bite.
Gougères were one of the very first things I learnt how to bake. I don’t have any cute little story about someone teaching me how to cook it or anything like that. I followed the instructions that were being presented on a cooking show on television – I’m not sure which show it was, but I do remember that I had to record the show using my VHS player (sorry, kids…you may need to look that one up) because I couldn’t keep up with the presenter’s instructions!
What are gougères
You can think of gougères as French cheese puffs. They’re made by folding cheese into balls made of choux dough, which are then baked in the oven. They’re savory snacks that are often served as appetizers, and are the counterpart to their sweet cousins, chouquettes.
While gougères can be made using many different types of cheese (cheddar, havarti, gruyère cheese are all great options), they are always savoury dishes with a lightly crispy outside, and a cheesy and airy interior. Other variations of gougeres typically involve the variations of herbs and spices (I’ve heard nutmeg is a popular addition, though I’ve never actually tried it!).
I should also mention that a gougere is not technically the same as a cheese puff pastry – choux pastry is similar but different to puff pastry. It’s just an easy comparison to explain!
Gougeres are believed to have originated in the Burgundy region of France. While the exact town or baker remains unconfirmed, two popular options are:
- Flogny-La-Chapelle – this village actually has an annual gougeres festival to celebrate its invention (by a baker named Lienard in the early 19th century).
- Granulated white sugar
- Salt (just a pinch)
- All-purpose flour
- Gruyere Cheese
- Cayenne pepper
How to make gougères
In a medium-sized pot, heat the milk, water, sugar, salt, and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat, and add the flour. Mix until well combined.
Return the pot to medium heat (if you’re confident, it’s fine to use a medium-high heat too). Make sure to stir constantly as it cooks, until the mixture comes together and does not stick to the sides or the bottom of the pan, about 4-5 minutes. (Congrats, bestie. You’ve just formed the panade.)
Transfer the panade to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer on medium speed. If you’ve never worked with pate a choux before, I’d recommend doing this by hand so that you can get a better feel for the consistency required.
Pour some of the beaten egg into the bowl in stages. Beat until smooth and homogenous. Then add the remaining beaten eggs to the mixture in stages (I usually opt for around one egg at a time). Repeat this process until the dough is ready. (Check the choux pastry tips below for more information.)
Add the cayenne pepper and grated gruyere cheese to the bowl, and beat until incorporated. Transfer the pate a choux dough to a piping bag (with a plain tip).
Pipe the dough into a dome shape of 2-3 cm/1-inch diameter on to a baking tray lined with a silicone baking mat (optional, use pretty circles-patterned ones). Alternatively, simple parchment-lined baking sheets will work fine.
(There’s no difference when using a baking mat or parchment paper here. I just prefer a baking mat because it reduces waste.)
Brush them with simple egg wash before baking. Bake the Gougeres in a preheated oven at 180°C/355°F for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve slightly warm.
The right number of eggs
The trickiest part about working with choux pastry is adding the right amount of eggs – you need enough that your dough will become shiny and smooth, but not so much that the choux dough can’t hold it’s shape (and then you can’t pipe it!).
And while we estimate the correct number of eggs to use for choux recipes (including this one), there’s no way that anyone can account for the all variables when preparing a good ol’ pâte à choux – and the biggest variable is how hot and long you cook your panade. The longer and hotter you cook it, the drier it will get and the more egg will be required to obtain the correct consistency for the choux.
The best way to tell is by sight and feel – if your choux dough looks shiny and smooth, you probably don’t need anymore eggs. You can also feel the tensile strength of the dough, if you scoop a small amount on to a wooden spoon, it should still fall off…but slowly, almost as if it is trying to hang on to your spoon!
A general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that it’s better to be cautious. A little too little egg is better than a little too much!
Electric mixer vs your hand
If this is your first time working with choux pastry, I’d recommend mixing your choux dough entirely by hand. An electric mixer is easy to use, and speeds up the process, but if you haven’t yet developed a feel for the timing and the consistency, it’s better to take it slow.
Don’t become impatient
Another common issue when baking choux pastry is impatience…or curiosity. Quite often, for the most well-meaning of reasons, someone may open the oven door of choux being baked. Don’t do that. Gourgeres (and any kind of choux pastry really – chouquettes, eclairs, etc.) aren’t baked long and open the oven door creates an opening of hot air to flood away! Just wait till they’re ready please!
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Once baked, the cheesy gougeres can be stored by refrigerating in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Baked gougères freeze surprisingly well. I like to put a few pieces into ziplock bags and freeze (for up to a month) – that way, if I ever want just a couple of these yummy little French cheese puffs, I don’t need to worry about thawing all of them.
To reheat the frozen gougères, bake at 350 degrees F for no more than 5 minutes. Check if they’ve thawed completely, if not add back to the oven for 5 more minutes. This can be done with refrigerated gougeres as well (but I don’t usually bother).
More French baking
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Luckily, gougères don’t require any specialised equipment to make. It’s always easier to do with pastry bag and some tips. That said, if you don’t want to be a fancy pastry chef, you can probably just make do with a simple cookie scoop.
That’s it. What did you think? Have you tried French gougères yet? Let me know in the comments below.Print