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Gougères: French Cheese Puffs

August 7, 2010

I was surfing the net and I discovered Gougères. 

Carbs and cheese, what could be better than that!  I tried to resist the temptation to cook but I failed.  These delicious balls of flavor will be part of Thanksgiving appetizers this year.  Today I used parmesan but I intend to try a variety of cheese and to possibly incorporate some sort of ham or prosciutto eventually.  These are insanely easy to make, they are delicious and in my opinion they look pretty fancy/impressive. 

About thirty bite-sized puffs
Two things to keep in mind when making these. One is that you should have all the ingredients ready to go before you start. Don’t let the water and butter boil away while you grate the cheese. Otherwise you’ll lose too much of the water. Second is to let the batter cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs so you don’t ‘cook’ them. Make sure when you stir in the eggs that you do it vigorously, and without stopping. Add cheese.  For successful gougères it is very important that you beat in as many tiny air bubbles as you can. Use an electric beater if you need to. The air you introduce at this stage is the reason gougères will rise, by helping the water turn into steam and inflate the dough. No air means flat gougères. 

If you don’t have a pastry bag with a plain tip, you can put the dough into a freezer bag, snip off a corner, and use that. Or simply use two spoons to portion and drop the dough onto the baking sheet. This recipe can easily be doubled.
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
12 chives, finely-minced
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated cheese (traditionally these are made with Gruyère, I used parmesan but you could use almost any cheese, the fuller the flavor and the harder the cheese the better)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, silicone baking mat or foil (greased).
2. Heat the water, butter, salt, and pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
3. Dump in the flour all at once and mix quickly until combined and becomes a ball of batter. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.
4. Add the eggs, but be sure to stir quickly so the eggs don’t ‘cook.  If you dont mind getting another bowl dirty then put the dough, eggs, cheese and chives in a food processor to mix.
5. Add about 3/4s of the grated cheese and the chives, and stir until well-mixed.
6. Scrape the mixture into a zip-lock bag, cut the tip and pipe 30-35 puffs of dough (about the size of a cherry tomato).
7. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top and put in the oven.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F (190C) and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.

Serving: The puffs are best served warm, and if making them in advance, you can simply pipe the gougères on baking sheets and cook right before your guests arrive, or reheat the baked cheese puffs in a low oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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