Gougères are classic French cheese puffs that make a great snack or canapé. They are essentially a savory choux pastry, with cheese added into the mixture. Then you bake them up to crisp, light deliciousness. Perfect for parties or any excuse you want to find.
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Savory snacks and bites are definitely some of my favorite, both for entertaining or just because. We're big cheese fans in our house, too, so little bites like these are perfect.
Choux pastry can get a reputation of being a little tricky to make, and I can imagine just being savory doesn't make them sound any easier. But honestly, these come together more easily than you might expect.
Where are gougères from?
As mentioned above (plus the name kind if gives a hint), these little bites are from France. The exact origins are unclear, though most agree they likely originate in Burgundy. Some say they go back to the 18th century, others suggest they are even older.
Either way, these days they are a classic savory snack. And once you try them, it's easy to understand why.
What type of cheese is best?
You can use a few different hard, flavorful cheeses for this. Gruyère, Comté and Emmental are the most typical choices, which all have a lovely depth of flavor.
Gruyère is probably the most widely used or referenced in recipes, which is definitely a great choice. Given they are from Burgundy, in all likelihood they were originally made with Comté which is from that region. But any of these three would work well.
If you don't have any of those available, then another firm, relatively flavorful cheese would be your best bet, such as a strong cheddar.
How do they puff up?
If you take a quick look at the recipe, you might see there's no raising agent listed and wonder how these puff up. Well, there are a couple things going on here that make the magic happen. First, these are egg-rich which helps the dough hold it's puffed-up shape.
If you are familiar with Dutch baby pancakes and/or Yorkshire pudding, there's a bit of overlap in how they expand due to the mix of flour, egg, liquid and fat in them. But these have a little extra something going on.
As mentioned, these are effectively a savory choux pastry, and the trick to these and any choux is cooking the dough a little first before you add the eggs. You can see the dough above, before, and after, below. This process gently cooks the flour which gelatinizes the starches in it. What this means is that it becomes more flexible but also stronger.
When the water in the dough tries to escape as the dough bakes, the flour helps to hold it inside the dough, creating air pockets instead. Then those eggs help the flour hold it's shape even more. In other words, you get lovely light, puffy little bites that are soft inside and gently crisp outside.
Tips for making gougères
At first, these might seem a little intimidating, but really don't worry, they are easier than you might think. And with the following tips, you should be well on your way.
- Add the flour off the heat and mix it in well. You want to make sure you don't have any clumps of flour as this can impact the end texture. That's also partly why you mix in off the heat so you have a little more time to get it smooth.
- Cook the flour-butter mixture until it comes together and is a little drier and smooth. When you first mix in the flour, it will look a bit like mashed potatoes, but after cooking a few minutes, stirring regularly, it comes together and has a much smoother texture. It may leave a slight film on the pan as you stir.
- Cool the mixture slightly before adding the eggs. You only need to leave it a minute, but you want to make sure you don't cook the eggs as you add them. Scrambled eggs in there would not be good.
- Add the eggs one at a time and mix in quickly. Adding one at a time both helps you get a better chance of incorporating them and gradually cools the dough a little. Don't worry if the dough looks like it's separating or curdling when you first mix, just keep mixing. By the time they are all in, you should have a lovely smooth, rich dough, as below.
- Use a piping bag to make little mounds. It's the quickest and least messy way, though you could use spoons if you don't have a piping bag.
- Leave space between them. Remember they are going to expand as they cook, so you want to give them room to do so.
- Smooth them off with a damp finger then add a little extra cheese. The extra cheese on top helps to give an extra burst of cheesy flavor as you bite in, as well as adding to the lovely golden color. Using a finger dipped in water helps you smooth off the shape without it sticking to you, and also helps the cheese stick on top, too.
- Then bake!
As you might guess being from Burgundy and being made with cheese, they pair really well with wine, so are great to snack on with a glass in hand. You could also serve them as part of a cheeseboard or appetizer platter.
While they are delicious just as they are, you can also top them with a few small additions. For example, a little sour cream and caviar or smoked salmon, or some ham. While non-traditional, we really like them with some membrillo, quince paste.
You can make them a little larger or smaller to suit your serving ideas, too. Just in all cases, be sure to leave space between them for expansion as they bake.
Gougères don't have that many ingredients, but the result is such a wonderful treat. Crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside and packed with cheesy goodness. You'll definitely be back for a few more.
Try these other cheesy snacks/appetizers:
- Tiropita (Greek filo pastries with a cheese filling)
- Adjaruli khachapuri (a delicious Georgian bread boat with a cheese filling)
- Cheese scones
- Pesto goat cheese filo parcels
- Plus get more snack recipes, sweet and savory in the archives.
Gougeres (French cheese puffs)
- 4 oz gruyere cheese 115g, or comte/emmental, divided
- ½ cup milk 120ml
- ½ cup water 120ml
- 7 tablespoon unsalted butter 100g, cut into chunks
- 1 cup all purpose flour 140g plain flour
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment. Have a piping bag ready with a wide tip. Grate around 3 ½oz/100g of the cheese coarsely - this will go in the mixture - and grate the remaining ½oz/15g finely and keep separate (this is to go on top).
- Place the milk, water and butter in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Warm, stirring fairly regularly, until the butter melts. Continue to warm until the mixture comes to a simmer then remove from the heat.
- Add the flour off the heat and using a spatula, mix well so that there aren't any clumps of flour. The mixture will probably look a little like mashed potato at this point.
- Return the mixture to the heat, and cook for around 5 minutes over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture dries out a little and comes together in a smooth clump. You may get a little residue on the side of the pan.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a minute. You want it still warm but not so hot the eggs cook when they are added. Add the eggs one at a time to the mixture, stirring vigorously to incorporate them into the mixture. Don't worry if it looks like it is separating at first, just keep mixing and it will blend in.
- Once all of the eggs are added, add the coarsely-grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix all through so well distributed. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag.
- Pipe mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in rows, each around 1 - 1 ½inches diameter (3 - 4cm) with around 2 inches (5cm) between them to allow for them expanding. If you need to, you can add a little more to any mound after to even out sizes.
- Once you have piped them all, dampen your finger and gently smooth off the edges to make them relatively rounded. Sprinkle a little of the finely-grated cheese on top of each mound. Bake for around 20 -25 minutes until golden brown on top.
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