Apéritif cheese puffs, Burgundy style

Gougères may take a bit longer to make than most everyday starters, but the effort is well worth it. For best results, use French comté or a similar cheese, like gruyère. If that is not available, cheddar should be fine. I owe this recipe to Franck Lasne, the baker in the small Burgundy village of Villiers Saint-Benoît, whose gougères are the best I’ve ever tasted.

For the puffs:
1-1/4 cup (1/4 liter) water
1/4 pound (110 g.) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (125 g.) flour
4 large eggs
1/2 pound (220 g./about 3 cups) finely grated comté or a similar cheese

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. water

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F., 205 C.). Prepare a baking sheet: Cover with baking paper or grease lightly.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the water with the butter and salt over a medium flame. When the butter has melted, turn up the flame. As soon as the mixture boils, remove from heat. Add the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. When you have a smooth dough, place the pot over a low flame and stir until the mixture no longer sticks to the bottom, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Now add the eggs one by one, stirring vigorously to incorporate each egg before adding the next. Stir in the grated cheese.

Using a tablespoon, place heaping mounds of dough on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of space around each mound to allow room for the puffs to expand.

Now make your glaze. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl. Add the water and stir. Using a pastry brush, paint each mound with a little glaze.

Bake for 5 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar, then close the door and continue baking until golden brown, another 15-20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 20 medium-sized puffs.

Gougères freeze well for future use. Very handy if guests suddenly turn up at cocktail hour. Simply defrost for a few minutes and pop them into the oven until you can smell their cheesy aroma — meaning that they’re ready.

* Chosen by FrenchEntrée.com to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine.

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4 Responses to Gougères

  1. Linder says:

    Yippee, I made my first gougeres. They taste terrific but didn’t puff up very much. Sorta flatish. What did I do wrong???

    • Meg says:

      It could be any of a number of things, starting with where you live. Depending on altitude and humidity, the proportions of the ingredients may need adjusting, and this you will need to discover via experimentation. But it could be something else. Possibly you opened the oven door to peek while the gougères were cooking — which can make them collapse. Or maybe you didn’t leave them in quite long enough, for they can keep puffing until removed. If it’s any consolation, I had to try various recipes and methods before getting this right. And I’m still suspicious of Monsieur Lasne’s injunction to keep the oven door ajar for the first five minutes!

      • NATHAN T CARTER says:

        I had a similar issue and I think it was because I used too much glaze, which weighed it down and possibly created and slipped through some cracks. They were still delicious!

        • Meg says:

          Glad they were delicious! As for the glaze, it should be painted on using a very light touch — just a shimmer to make the tops of the gougères shiny. If you encounter this problem again, I’d suggest omitting the glaze.

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