Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 2012 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
photo by Sarah Phillips © Sarah Phillips
photo by Sarah Phillips © Sarah Phillips
I first made gougères years ago, and fell in love. They are so tasty, flavorful and versatile. A gougère in French cuisine, is a baked savory Pâte à choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. There are many variants. I serve them as hors d'oeuvres or as an accompaniment to soup or salad. The goal in making the perfect pastry is to have the finest crispy crust, the lightest interior, and an even and golden browned shape. What is the single most critical factor to their success? I have included all of the necessary information and how-to techniques.
PASTRY RECIPE HELP
Making the Pâte à choux dough properly is the single most critical factor in any successful gougères recipe. The dough is really a stable emulsion of fat and water, formed with the help of the yolk's emulsifiers. The dough is precooked and then baked.
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole or 2% milk
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted; measure and then sift; spoon flour into dry measuring cup and level to rim and then sift
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, must be close to room temperature; or more if needed
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons whole or 2% milk
2 tablespoon(s) finely grated Gruyère cheese
Preheat the oven and prepare the pans:
1. Position an oven shelf in the upper and lower-middle levels of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
SARAH SAYS: A convection oven is ideal for choux pastry, yielding a more uniform color and puffiness. If using, bake at 50 degrees lower than the temperature stated above.
2. Cover two baking sheets, preferably rimmed, with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. Do NOT grease the pans; the grease will cause the dough to flatten.
NOTE: Rimmed baking sheets are best to use so the baked puff pastry balls do not fall from the pans when you remove them from the oven. You will need four pans.
Prepare the dough:
1. Combine butter, 1/4 cup milk, water, salt, and pepper in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Remove from heat and sift in the measured flour and baking powder.
Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, beating constantly with a spoon. This is to evaporate all excess moisture from the mixture.
While you cook the paste, flatten and turn the dough against the sides of the pan, drying the paste as much as possible.
The dough will form a cohesive ball in the center of the pan even after a few strokes. Note that the bottom of the pan will be lightly filmed with the paste which you shouldn't scrap while cooking.
Cook and stir until the mixture holds together and begins to leave the sides of the pan clean, leaves the spoon clean, and leaves a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
SARAH SAYS: Avoid overcooking the paste and letting the fat separate out from the butter.
4. Transfer the paste, without scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, to a 2- to 3-quart bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer.
Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on lthe lowest speed for 1 minute or until it cools slightly before you add the eggs.
5. The eggs should be close to room temperature.
With the mixer on low, add them to the one at a time, beating well after each addition, to prevent the mixture from breaking and separating.
The dough will appear slippery at first but will become sticky and then smooth again as you continue to mix. The dough will be warm.
6. After all the eggs are incorporated, stop the mixer, and the dough should hold its shape and be stiff enough to hold a peak when a spoon is lifted out of it.
It will also still be somewhat sticky from the eggs.
When you have added the last egg, pinch off a small bit of dough with your thumb and index finger, and pull it apart. If it stretches between your thumb and finger, it is at a good consistency.
If it breaks apart right away, add another egg and beat to incorporate. If the dough is too soft, it will spread out when formed; add a teaspoon of flour at a time to the mixture and beat on low to stiffen.
7. Add 1 cup Gruyère and mix until smooth and shiny. Set aside.
Form Pâte à choux dough to be baked:
1. Place the batter in a large pastry bag fitted with a 1-inch plain tip. Pipe 2-inch diameter rounds, at least 1 inch apart to permit adequate expansion from puffing.
NOTE: Or, quickly spoon the Pâte à choux dough onto the prepared pans.
Proceed as quickly as possible so the Pâte à choux dough is still warm when it enters the oven. Cold choux pastry will also be stiff and harder to pipe.
NOTE: If your puffs have a little peak at the top, after you pipe them, dip a finger in water and gently tap it down.
2. Brush the tops with 2 tablespoons milk and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Gruyère.
3. For best results, bake the dough immediately in a well-preheated oven. This will ensure the greatest expansion and lightness.
4. Bake the gougères without opening the oven door for the first 20 minutes until they are puffed and well browned, about 25 to 30 minutes.
SARAH SAYS: A properly baked choux retains its puffy shape, with a hollow interior with an outside that is crisp and fairly dry, with an all over golden color. When broken apart, it should have a slightly moist crumb on the inside. However, if they are removed from the oven too soon, the structure of the shell has not solidified, and it will collapse. However, when you think they are done take one out of the oven and check it by breaking open and checking the interior walls. If wet and eggy, return to the oven as necessary. Remove when done and cool on a wire rack.
5. Remove the puffs from the oven. IMPORTANT: After removing the pastries from the oven, immediately puncture them on the side or bottom with the tip of a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. This will prevent sogginess. Place them on a wire cake rack to cool.
6. Serve immediately.
If you have more dough than you need, form and bake all of it and freeze the excess finished puffs. Wrap the baked shells tightly after they have cooled. Thaw, unwrapped on a wire cake rack to prevent sogginess.