Sunday, November 10, 2013


The French have done it again. They may have been fashionably late in nearly every one of the America's Cup races here in San Francisco, but they've been trailblazers when it comes to revolutions. I'm referring to revolutions of our taste buds, of course. Not any that were the consequence of inappropriately timed discussions on whether the members of the public ought to eat cake.

So back to the French and their food alchemy... take the gougère for example. Flour, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper. And sometimes herbs or other seasonings. All spooned onto a tray and baked for a bit. Et voila! Un amuse-bouche, comme il faut! Make them a bit large, make them quite small and bite-sized, serve as an amuse-bouche, or hors d'oeuvre. However you serve them, they're delicious. They're perfect even if you don't have company. On evenings when you're feeling peckish and want just wine, olives, nuts, crudités, and something just a bit more.

This is quite a versatile recipe. Usually I use Gruyère or Comté (the French version of Gruyère, and also called Gruyère de Comté) cheese and don't add much other than salt and pepper. But this time around I had the last bit of parsley and a serrano pepper that needed to be used, a lovely hunk of salty, grainy Pecorino Romano and a small bit of aged Gouda so I used those. The important thing is to use good quality cheese since you will definitely taste it. Also be careful when using soft wet cheeses like blue cheese or goat cheese because they can make the dough too wet, causing the gougères to deflate. They'll still taste fine, so if this happens, no need to panic.

Gougères will keep their shape even after cooled, so make them a few hours or even a day ahead of when you want to serve them. Rewarm in a 350 F / 180 C oven for 5-7 minutes or until warmed, and enjoy!

Gougères: Baked Cheese Puffs
Makes: approximately 30 gougères

- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped 
- 3 ounces (approx. 3/4 cup) grated cheese, Pecorino Romano, Gruyère, Comté, or a combination of cheeses
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional) - You won't need salt if you use salty cheese like Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, or Parmigiano Reggiano.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F / 220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the water, butter, and salt, if using, in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
  3. Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball.
  4. Remove from heat and let the dough rest for a couple of minutes - this is important!
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook’. The batter will look a bit lumpy, but after a minute or so, as you stir it will smooth out. (You can do this step of mixing in the eggs in a food processor or electric mixer, but I've never needed to do that.)
  6. Add the grated cheese, parsley, and chopped serrano, and stir everything until well-mixed.
  7. Make small 1 in. balls from the dough and put on the baking tray. If your dough is wetter and can't be rolled into balls - sometimes mine is, depending on what cheese I use of how large the eggs are - use two spoons to mound the mixture on to the baking tray.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 F / 190 C and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the gougères are completely golden brown.
  9. Serve warm.

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