How to Make Gougères, the Cheesy Bites That Look Basic But Taste Incredible
A choux-centric recipe from DC chef Kene Izegbu
What do ice cream-filled profiteroles, sinfully rich éclairs and the mound of pastry spheres held together with threads of solid caramel Jon Oliver once dubbed a “French freedom tower” have in common? Choux pastry, the development of which is often attributed to the pastry chef of Catherine de Medici who accompanied the Florentine noblewoman to the French court when she married King Henri II. It’s that very technique that’s at the heart of chef Kene Izegbu’s favorite pre-dinner bite: cheesy gougères.
Whether used in sweet or savory preparations, choux pastry is all about creating a delightfully airy structure, something that transpires when you take a traditional cake batter and turn it on its head. Choux pastry, after all, is made not in a mixing bowl but in a saucepan. Flour is added to a boiling mixture of milk and butter, and as it’s whisked in, the very structure of the starches changes, becoming at once both stronger and more flexible. The new structure allows the choux pastry to rise in the oven, holding a consequential amount of air and taking on an ultra eggy interior in contrast with a crisp, golden crust.
As opposed to sweet choux pastry preparations, gougères, which hail from Burgundy, see the dough seasoned with a heaping helping of grated cheese. And it’s this bite that Izegbu serves at the outset of nearly every meal at DC’s wineLAIR, the US outpost of the European wineBANK network, which was created by Christian Ress, fifth-generation owner of the famous Balthasar Ress winery.
“The recipe is something that I learned early in my career,” Izegbu says. “It serves as a simple and perfect first bite for our tastings and events.”
With her Michelin-starred background including stints at Kinship and Métier, it’s no surprise that Izegbu is well-versed in creating some highly technical bites. But for all of the science that goes into perfecting their texture, gougères are actually pretty easy to make at home.
First, the butter, milk and salt mixture is brought to a boil, at which point flour is beaten in vigorously. Eggs are beaten in just as soon as the mixture is cool enough to keep them from curdling.
“Since I’m making these in a professional kitchen, time means everything, so using a mixer instead of doing it by hand makes more sense for me,” she says, noting, nevertheless, that a home cook making a smaller batch will easily be able to achieve the desired texture with nothing more than a whisk and a wooden spoon.
Last up, it’s time to add the cheese. Izegbu opts for nutty Swiss Gruyère, fresh off its World Cheese Awards win.
“I like to use Le Superbe Gruyere, which is aged for 10 months,” she says. This cheese boasts the perfect blend of fruity, apricot notes and a nuttiness evocative of brown butter or toffee.
That said, the cheese you choose is up to you. French Comté keeps the recipe local to its Burgundian roots, but a sharp cheddar or even funky fontina could add their own personality to the recipe.
Once the cheese is incorporated, pipe the gougères and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes. Then turn off the oven and crack the door, letting them sit for 15 minutes, which, according to Izegbu, will help the interiors dry out a bit.
All that’s left is to dig in!
“These gougeres should be piped and eaten the same day,” she says. While any leftovers can be kept, wrapped carefully in plastic, and reheated in a 350 degree oven for five to 10 minutes, they’re really best hot out of the oven, when they’re totally irresistible.
- 235 grams (about 1 cup) milk
- 85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
- 2 grams (⅓ teaspoon) salt
- 128 grams (about 1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 115 grams (4 ounces) Gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Combine the milk, butter and salt in a small pot. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the milk comes to a slow boil.
Sift the flour into the milk mixture, and stir until incorporated.
Place the dough in a mixer, and beat with a paddle for about a minute, or until the mixture has cooled to 170º F and it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.
Beat in the cheese.
Pipe even rounds of gougères onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and crack the door slightly. Leave the gougères to sit in the cooling oven for 15 minutes, to help dry them out.
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.
Suggested for you