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.
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