It’s springtime, so (theoretically) I am all about fun. This week’s recipe is jam-packed with words that are fun to say: gougères (pronounced goo-jhair), pâte à choux (pat-ah-shoo) and Gruyère (groo-yare) cheese. Gougères are light, puffy pillows of cheese that are based on a savory version of the same dough, pâte à choux, that serves as the foundation of cream puffs and éclairs. Working with pâte à choux is another example of fun kitchen science (remember making ricotta earlier this year?). Flat, undistinguished blobs of dough go into the oven and a half hour later — poof! Cheese puffs. Magic. Delicious magic.
Gougères also feel right in the spring. They can be thrown together quickly and don’t tie you to the kitchen for hours. The name seems fussy, but the recipe is really flexible. Although the classic gougère calls for Gruyère cheese, I’ve seen versions involving blue cheese and black pepper, goat cheese and chive, and cheddar and paprika.
The one thing I’d strongly recommend after making these this weekend is using a much larger saucepan than seems necessary. All of the vigorous stirring and beating will definitely result in splashing. Which is fun in its own way, but also, you know, messy and sort of dangerous given that the dough involves hot melted butter and boiling water.
The reality may be that I’ve got to write another 60 pages before I graduate. But at least I had a brief respite this weekend, pronouncing goofy words and performing crazy kitchen magic. Hopefully I will again soon. Until then, the library.
4 tablespoons butter, diced
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (substitute blue cheese, Parmesan, cheddar, goat cheese or a combination)
Additions: freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, paprika, chives or any other chopped herb
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Heat the butter, water and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling, stir in the flour. Beat vigorously until the mixture forms a smooth dough that pulls away from the side of the saucepan and leaves a film at the bottom. This should only take one to two minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes so the eggs do not cook when you add them.
Beat the eggs in, one at a time, using an electric mixer. The dough should look smooth and waxy. Stir in the cheese and any other additions you are using.
Use a teaspoon to drop rounds of dough about 2–3 inches apart on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Use your fingers to smooth the tops of the rounds if any peaks form. If desired, sprinkle with additional cheese.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until gougères are golden brown and puffed. Serve hot.
Makes approximately 2 dozen gougères.