I’ll be completely honest. I don’t cook a lot of French food. This is definitely not because I don’t enjoy French food. I find it to be some of the best food out there of course.
But it can be a bit intimidating mainly for two reasons.
1) There’s a lot of special characters involved! I don’t speak French so inevitably I have to have the “It’s not gougeres, it’s gougéres” conversation. I get it. French is a beautiful language, but seriously I’m too lazy to keep track of it all. You’re lucky I’m not calling them cheese puffs.
2) It’s also inevitable that if I make something French, like these, I will accidentally serve them to someone who is actually French.
This exact thing happened over New Year’s! I’ve been meaning to try these out for a long time and I thought they’d be a good snack to bring to a party. What are the chances that I would run into a French person in Grand Junction, Colorado?
Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Except she wasn’t JUST French. She also happened to be a culinary instructor. Hilarity ensued.
1) Add butter, water, salt to a sturdy pot over medium heat and cook until butter is melted and the mixture is simmering.
2) Add flour and stir to combine. The dough should easily pull away from the sides of the pot. Cook another minute or two to cook out some extra water. Stir continuously.
3) Let the mixture cool for a few minutes until it’s hot, but you should be able to touch it.
4) Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, using either a stand mixer on low or a spoon (wooden is best).
5) Once eggs are incorporated, the dough should be silky smooth. Then stir in cheese.
6) Spoon or pipe mixture onto baking sheets with silpats or with parchment paper into ping pong ball sized balls. You should get 24-30.
7) Bake at 425 until puff is set, somewhere between 10-12 minutes most likely.
8) Turn heat down to 350 degrees and cook until done all the way through, another 15-20 minutes. Try not to take them out of the oven until they are done. Test one to make sure it’s light and also there’s no wet dough on the inside.
9) These are best right away, but still good a day after also.
Making the Dough
This dough has a tough name (Pâte à Choux), but saying the name is pretty much the hardest part. It’s an interesting dough though because you actually cook it!
This is all you really need for the whole recipe.
Start by mixing your butter and water with the salt in a sturdy pot. Set this over medium heat until the butter is melted and the liquid is lightly simmering.
Then add in your flour and stir well to combine. This was the step I was most scared about because it just seemed weird, but it works like a charm and results in a really moist, soft dough. Turn the heat down to low on the stove and continue to cook this, stirring continuously for a minute or two. You just want to cook off some of the water.
The dough should easily pull away from the sides of the pot.
Beating in the eggs
Next you need to mix the eggs into the dough, one at a time.
The important step here is to let the dough cool for a minute or two before doing this, otherwise you’ll just cook the eggs which is a bad idea.
You want the dough hot still, but you should be able to touch it without it burning your finger.
Then transfer your dough to your stand mixer (or just mix in the eggs with a preferably wooden spoon). On low, beat in one egg at a time with the beater blade.
The dough should become silky as the eggs mix in.
Once you get all your eggs in, add your grated cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
Portioning the Puffs
Once your dough is ready, just spoon (or pipe) it onto a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and leave a bit of space between each puff.
Here’s the thing… I made mine too big. I think my dough was a bit on the wet side and so when I tried to follow the golf ball sized instruction, the dough kind of spread a bit on me and I ended up with something like squash ball sized gougères.
I think I should’ve cooked my dough for another 30 seconds or so and also portioned these a bit smaller. Next time I’ll think ping pong ball sized puffs.
Have no fear though. It’s a learning experience as confirmed by the French cooking instructor I accidentally fed these to.
Baking the Puffs
You obviously want these to PUFF. They should be really light and airy. Here’s the key steps to this as confirmed by my new French cooking instructor friend:
- Start cooking them in a preheated 425 degree (HOT) oven and cook them at this temperature until they are set, meaning that the outside crust is stable. For me this was like 15 minutes and some of them didn’t work out because they were too big. Normally, I would think this would be in the 10-12 minute range.
- Don’t take them out of the oven. Try not to even open the oven!
- Once the puffs are set, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and cook them until they are cooked done all the way through, probably another 15-20 minutes.
- Test a puff before you pull them all out of the oven. Make sure they are light and airy and there’s no wet dough on the inside.
The Most Important Part
The most important thing to remember though is not to stress about these guys. At the end of the day you’ve mixed butter, cheese, and eggs together. They are going to be good as long as you don’t burn them into bricks.
I’m pretty sure I broke all four of those above rules and my still turned out to be very edible although not quite as puffed as I would have liked.
At the end of the day, my gougeres turned out to be more like very puffy, hollow, cheesy biscuits. But you know what? They were really tasty.
Even the French cooking instructor complimented the flavor and texture even though the shape of my gougères wasn’t exactly traditional.
That’s okay though. They were still gourgeous to me.