If you are new to baking or cooking, it might make you feel better that a fairly experienced person – I’m talking about myself here – gets kitchen jitters. Now, if I got nervous every time I made something new, I would be nervous all the time and we all know that’s not healthy. But if I am going to venture into relatively new territory, I get a few butterflies.
For example, these gougères. Gougères are made from pâte à choux which is the same dough used to make profiteroles and éclairs. It has the amazing ability to bake up a firm, slightly crunch exterior while maintaining a soft airy interior. I first encountered this dough a few years ago when I decided to make profiteroles for my parents’ anniversary dinner. They both love them and everything I read about pâte à choux was that it was easy to make and easy to work with.
When I am making something new or something unfamiliar to me, it is extremely important to me to go to a cookbook that I trust. In this case, I turned to Baking Illustrated by the publishers of the magazine Cook’s Illustrated. These people test recipes to death and make all the mistakes you or I would as they work to find the foolproof recipe. I feel safe in their hands and in their detailed recipes.
I am catering a dinner party on Saturday and wanted to have a couple of nibbles for guests to eat before they sit down for the five course meal. Gougères are something I have been wanting to try for a long time and I figured this was a good opportunity. In addition to being easy to pop in the mouth, they can be made in advance and frozen – always a huge bonus in my book.
In the above photo you can see what they look like inside. This is courtesy of my two small taste testers, neither of whom liked the gougères, but mama is proud that they tried them!
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Makes about 16
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp. butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tsbp. whole milk
6 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1. Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess). Set aside.
2. Bring the butter, milk, water, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucpan, about 3 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream, followed by the Gruyère and the cayenne pepper. When everything has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (Can be made two hours ahead. Transfer to a medium bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface, and store at room temperature.)
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large (18 by 12 inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set the pan aside.
5. Fold down the top 3 or 4 inches of a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip to form a cuff and fill the bag with the paste. Unfold the cuff, lay the bag on the work surface, and, using your hands or a bench scraper, push the paste toward the tip of the pastry bag. Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste onto the prepared baking sheet into sixteen 2-inch mounds spacing about an inch and a half apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the mounds.
6. Bake 15 minutes (do not open oven door), then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 12-14 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. With a paring knife, cut a 3/4 – inch slit into the side of each puff to release steam; return puffs to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Dry the puffs in the turned-off oven until center is just moist (not wet) and the surface is crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer puffs to a rack and cool until just warm. Serve warm. (Puffs can be cooled completely and stored at room temperature for 24 hours or frozen in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. Before serving, crisp the room temperature puffs in a 300 degree oven 5-8 minutes; crisp the frozen puffs 8-10 minutes.)