I have long been addicted to gougères. These cheesy savory choux-like confections that are light as air, with a slight crunch on the outside and a moist, tender interior are like the posh version of cheese puffs and they taste better than your favorite cheese crackers. They’re the perfect finger food, guaranteed to wow guests on special occasions. Yet, they’re simple to make, when you know the basic technique.
I only recently learned gougères originate from the Burgundy region in France. They’re always listed amongst the must-try dishes of the region, but I didn’t have the pleasure to indulge during my recent day trip to Dijon. These delightful savory treats remained in my mind for the whole time I was in Paris and I came back determined to make gougères again.
In France, gougères are frequently served at wine tastings, which should come as no surprise, since they were created in one of France’s best winemaking regions. The classic pairing with gougères is Chablis, a dry white wine made with Chardonnay grapes that has a nice acidity, which deliciously contrasts with the richness and texture of gougères. They’re fantastic with Champagne too! (Of course, what isn’t?)
After making gougères for the first time, many people complain that their puffs come out of the oven deflated. There are two secrets to perfectly round and airy gougères: adding the flour all at once, and incorporating the eggs one by one. If you follow these tips, you should succeed (and feel very proud of yourself!). The basic choux pastry technique is the same as the use that’s used to make profiteroles or éclairs, so the bonus in mastering gougères is that you’ll be able to bake sweet variations too.
Gougères are traditionally baked in individual, round puffs, or in larger rings that often filled with a savory filling and served in wedges. The smaller form can be filled with a mousse or thick béchamel using a pastry bag, though truthfully, they’re quite spectacular as they are, right out of the oven.
Makes 24 1½-in [3.8-cm] gougères
1 cup [250 ml] water
3 tbsp [45 ml] unsalted butter, diced
¾ tsp [3.75 ml] salt
1 cup [250 ml] unbleached all purpose flour
4 large eggs, chilled
1 cup [250 ml] (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 oz [113 g])
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] freshly ground black pepper
See flavor variation suggestions after the recipe.
In your oven, position one rack in the top third and one rack in the bottom. Preheat to 400°F [200°]. Line two large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking until butter melts (no need to let it come to a full boil). Add the flour all at once; stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the flour absorbs all the liquid and the dough forms a ball, pulling away from the sides of the pan (this should take 30 seconds to a minute). Keep on stirring vigorously over the heat until a film forms on the bottom of the pan and dough is no longer sticky, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the dough cool (in the pan) for 2 to 3 minutes.
Now’s the important part: Beat the eggs in one at a time. Every time you’ll add an egg, the mixture will first look like a glossy curdled mess, but then it will come back together. Make sure each egg is well incorporated before adding the next.
Here’s what the mixture looks like shortly after adding egg #1:
After beating for a couple minutes more, the dough has absorbed the egg and become matte again, but there’s not enough liquid yet to allow it to come together. This is normal.
After egg #2:
After egg #3:
After egg #4:
At this point, the dough should be thick but creamy. Fold in the grated cheese and black pepper (or any other cheese/flavor combination of your choosing) using a spatula.
Chefs often use a pastry bag to create the puffs, but I find it much easier to use a small 0.75-oz [1½-tbsp] ice cream scoop, which creates perfectly round shapes every time. If you don’t have a small ice cream scoop, you can also drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls on the parchment paper. Space each puff about 3 inches [7.5 cm] apart. The dough should be thick enough to keep its rounded shape.
Using damp fingertips, press down any peaks of dough to create round puffs. See below; the first row was edited, while the rest still shows peaks created by the ice cream scoop. You could very well leave them as is, but why not make them perfect?
Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking. Using a small paring knife, pry open 1 gougère to check for doneness: the center should be slightly eggy and moist.
Serve hot or warm. Gougères can be made several hours ahead. Once baked, let them cool completely on a rack, then store at room temperature in an airtight container. Before serving, rewarm in a 350°F [175°C] oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, via Bon Appétit Magazine.
You can start from the classic recipe and then make it your own using the flavor variations I’m suggesting below. Use one or combine them to your liking!
- Replace all of the Gruyère with cheddar, Swiss, Comté, Emmental or part of the total cheese quantity with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Add 1 tbsp [15 ml] finely chopped chives or green onions
- Add more freshly ground black pepper (up to 1 tsp [5 ml) to make them really peppery
- Add finely chopped fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley
- Add the finely grated zest of one lemon
- Add shaved fresh truffle, or truffle puree, or 1 tsp [5 ml] truffle-flavored olive oil (truly decadent!)
- Add ½ tsp [2.5 ml] crushed fennel or cumin seeds
- Add ¼ cup [60 ml] finely diced and sautéed bacon or pancetta
- Add ¼ cup [60 ml] finely chopped pitted green or black olives (or a mix of the two)
- Add ¼ cup [60 ml] finely chopped toasted walnuts
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and 1 tsp [5 ml] Dijon mustard (great with a ham-based filling)
- Lessen the cheese quantity to ¾ cup [180 ml] and add ½ cup [125 ml] ground ham (flavor with cayenne pepper and Dijon mustard)
- Sprinkle more cheese over the puffs before baking
- Sprinkle with flaky sea salt before baking (or another exotic salt, like pink or black lava salt)
- Fill with whipped goat’s cheese
More Gougère Recipe Ideas
- Sage and Gorgonzola Gougères (Cookin’ Canuck)
- Southern-Style Gougères (Saveur Magazine)
- Gouda Gougères (French Women Don’t Get Fat)
- Blue Cheese and Champagne Gougères (Martha Stewart)
- Rosemary and Aged Provolone Gougères (StrawberryPlum)
- Cheddar and Pecan Gougères (Fine Cooking Magazine)
- Red Bell Pepper and Asiago Gougères (Land O Lakes)