For years I avoided any recipe that involved the making of choux pastry. It always seemed like it had ‘catastrophe’ written all over it. Eclairs and profiteroles were to be enjoyed fresh from authentic French patisseries… from French restaurants… from Mum on the odd occasion that she would make a croqembouche for our Birthdays (very swish, I know!), or not at all… When something has been done to perfection and we’ve been fortunate enough to taste it at it’s best, it’s a hard thing to aspire to making it ourselves. More often than not, years of experience and knowledge sit behind such technique and talent.
It took me until a few years ago when I discovered Alice Waters’s book ‘The Art of Simple Food’ to finally decide to dip my toes in the water and give choux pastry a try. A recipe that Alice had gleaned from a French friend caught my eye. Gougères, much less exotically known in English as ‘Cheese Puffs’, are delicious savoury appetisers, perfect alongside a chilled glass of wine (preferably a rosé from Bandol in Southern France). After reading about this lovely lady, Lulu Peyraud, we decided while holidaying in France, to visit her vineyard, Domaine Tempier, just outside of Bandol, Provence and purchased some beautiful wine from her cellar door. A truly magical part of the world.
For those interested, Richard Olney wrote a wonderful book back in 1994, filled with the recipes of Lulu Peyraud, all oozing of Provence and the Meditteranean – a great addition to any cookbook collection.
Despite the fact that our bottles of rosé are long gone, I continue to enjoy baking her gorgeous gougères, made now without fear of puffs that refuse to puff. Please give them a try, if you haven’t already – just quietly… choux pastry’s not so tricky after all!
Gougères | Cheese Puffs
- 125ml/½ cup Water
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- 45g/3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 125g/½ cup Plain Flour (sifted)
- 2 Free-Range Eggs
- 45g/½ cup Grated (or finely diced) Gruyere Cheese
Preheat oven to 190°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt and butter. Place on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted, remove from the heat and add the flour (all at once), stirring with a wooden spoon. Place the pan back on the heat and stir the mixture quickly until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan in a smooth ball. Continue stirring for a minute or two. Remove again from the heat.
At this stage, I prefer to put the mixture straight into an electric mixer for a few minutes on low speed to cool it down a little. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next When the dough is looking smooth and elastic, gently stir in the cheese.
The above stage can easily be done by hand, in the saucepan or in a mixing bowl, however please ensure the mixture has cooled down sufficiently, as the eggs will curdle easily if it’s too hot.
Scoop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the lined baking trays, leaving reasonable space between each one. Place the tray in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes without disturbing, until golden brown.
When the gougeres are ready, use a sharp knife to place a small slit in each one, allowing any steam to escape. Serve immediately.
Notes on Cooking:
- The gougères can be stored in an airtight container for a day or two and be reheated at 180°C for a few minutes until they become crisp again.
- The recipe can be easily doubled for when more are required… they disappear quickly!
- Feel free to pipe the mixture onto the trays if you prefer, though so far I haven’t seen any benefit in doing so… I like to use a small cookie dough scoop (similar to an ice cream scoop) to ensure each gougère is a similar size.