I’m sure it comes as no surprise that most recipes in my Travel-Inspired Baking category are sweets—either delectable desserts or pleasing pastries. This time, though, I give thee a baked French hors d’hoeuvre that’s light and savory, pairs beautifully with wine, and will knock les chaussettes off your guests. Introducing, les gougères.
A few years ago we had la bon chance to dine in the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, a dining experience that almost didn’t happen.* I wish I could recall all the courses we ate on that otherwise memorable day, but one thing is certain: they did not serve gougères. Too bad, too, because if the meal we had was anything to go by, they would have been extraordinaire.
*If you’d like to learn about that epic(urean) adventure, read this:
Otherwise, let’s get baking.
Blue Cheese-Walnut Gougères(Cheese & Herb variation follows)
Recipe Adapted From: Martha Stewart’s
French Food for Felons Baking Handbook
Level of Difficulty: medium—it’ll take a bit of practice to get your piping right
Time Consumption: medium
Kitchen Destruction: low, but if you have five cookie sheets like I do, you’ll use them all
Wow Factor: high, especially if you let slip that you used your piping bag with your homemade pâte à choux. That’ll
intimidate impress many non-cooks. Also, people LOVE eating them, tossing them into their mouths like popcorn while making embarrassing moaning noises.
- 1¼ C all-purpose flour
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 4 large, whole eggs, plus 1 large egg white, if needed
- 1/3 c walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 5 oz (≈ ¾ cup) finely crumbled blue cheese
- Piping bag (if you cut off the corner of a Ziploc, that’ll do)
- ½-inch plain piping tip (such as an Ateco #808)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line up to five baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats such as Silpats™.
(At this point, Martha wants you to pre-mark where you’ll put each gougère by dipping a round cookie cutter in flour and making powdery circles on the lined cookie sheet. Unless you’re legally blind, this is a pointless waste of time. Just pipe the gougères about 2 inches apart and you’ll be fine. Honestly, Martha . . . )
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water with the butter, salt, sugar, paprika, pepper, and nutmeg over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, add flour, stirring vigorously until flour is no longer visible. Return pan to medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a film on the pan’s bottom, about 4 minutes.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until lightly cooled, about 1 minute. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed until incorporated. Lightly beat the 4th egg and add a little at a time until the batter is smooth and shiny. Test the batter by touching it lightly with your finger and lifting—it should form a soft peak. If it doesn’t, the batter needs more egg. If you’ve added all the egg and soft peaks still won’t form, add the egg white, a little at a time, until it does.
Congratulations. You have just made pâte à choux. Be sure to brag about it on social media.
Transfer pâte à choux to a pastry bag fitted with a plain wide tip.
Pipe puffs into spiraled circles
to fit in the floured circles 🙄 about 2 inches apart.
Dividing evenly, sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese in the center of each round, then sprinkle with the chopped nuts.
Choose your own ending:
Having a party? Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until puffs are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately, as gougères are best eaten warm from the oven.
Not hungry? Freeze gougère-covered cookie sheet for 30 minutes, then pluck off the rounds, placing them in a Ziploc bag. Store in the freezer while you repeat with remaining cookie sheets. Keep frozen until ready to bake. Do not thaw.
Confessions of an imperfect baker:
I own lots of piping tips, but none like the one called for in this recipe. Instead, I used the widest one I could find, which had little teeth. Sometimes you just gotta
tooth it wing it.
Notes: Not a blue cheese fan? Got a nut allergy? Omit those offensive ingredients and do this instead:
- After the film forms at the bottom of the pan, stir in 1½ cups grated Gruyère, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 TBS chopped fresh dill, and 2 TBS chopped fresh chives.
- Just before baking or freezing, sprinkle an additional ¼ cup Parmesan over the gougères. (I haven’t tried this Cheese & Herb version, so if you do, let me know how they turn out.)