Maybe you have made gougères in the past. Maybe you like your recipe. But you’re going to like this one better. I got it from Napa Valley private chef Sarah Scott, who cooks dinner parties for a lot of the local wine families. If I’m invited to a party and find Sarah in the kitchen, I am so happy. Her gougères are perfection: crunchy outside, airy within. With that first glass of sparkling wine, they’re just what you want.
Sarah uses grated Gruyère in her batter, which is classic. But you can play around. I’ve made the recipe with Sottocenere, the truffled cow’s milk cheese from Italy, hoping that the black-truffle scent would survive the baking. Wishful thinking. But you can certainly replace the Gruyère with Comté, Appenzeller, Challerhocker, Fontina or Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise. If you like spice, try chipotle Cheddar. I’ve never made gougères with blue cheese, but heck, why not?
After decades of making and savoring gougères, it finally occurred to me that the word shares a root with the English “gouge.” The ideal gougère is all but hollow inside, its crusty exterior sealing in the aromas of warm butter and toasted cheese. Don’t underbake them. If the outside isn’t sufficiently crisp, the puffs may collapse as they cool. You can view some sorry examples of underbaked gougères on Google Images.
I like them best warm. If you can’t bake them shortly before guests arrive, then bake them earlier and reheat in a moderately hot oven for just a few minutes. Sarah says she has scooped the batter onto trays as much as one day ahead and refrigerated the trays. She takes them out of the fridge about 1 hour before baking.
Sarah Scott’s Gougères
Sarah serves her gougères from a tray or basket, tucked inside a linen napkin. From Margrit Mondavi’s Vignettes by Margrit Biever Mondavi with Janet Fletcher.
- 3/4 cup skim milk
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup bread flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Fleur de sel for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper.
Combine the milk, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once, whisking until smooth. The mixture will be thick. Reduce the heat to medium-low and switch to a wooden spoon. (You may have to tap the whisk vigorously against the side of the saucepan to release all the batter.) Cook, stirring constantly, until the batter clears the sides and bottom of the pan and loses its raw taste, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Mix in the pepper and all but 3 tablespoons of the cheese.
With 2 spoons, drop walnut-sized mounds of batter onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the mounds. You should have room for 1 dozen gougères per baking sheet and enough batter for 2 dozen gougères in all. Don’t worry about making them perfectly neat and round. Brush the tops with the cream and sprinkle with a few grains of fleur de sel. Coarsely chop the remaining 3 tablespoons of grated cheese and sprinkle on top, dividing it evenly.
Bake one tray at a time until the gougères are a deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not open the oven door while they are baking!) They should be crisp outside and moist but not doughy inside. If unsure, break one open to check. Serve immediately or cool on a rack and reheat before serving.
Makes 2 dozen