Once I was in New York City, having dinner with my family at a French bistro named L'Absinthe. It was the kind of restaurant that felt authentically French, from the decor to the charming accents of the staff. At the beginning of the meal, instead of the usual bread basket, we were presented with a plate of small golden brown pastries which were obviously fresh from the oven. They tasted like little bite-sized cheese souffles, and they were absolutely irresistible. I had to know what these delicious treats were called so that I could figure out how to make them at home, so I asked our busboy. He told me that they were "Gougeres."
A gougere, by definition, is a savory "choux" pastry with grated cheese in the batter. A choux pastry is the kind of light, airy pastry that is also used for eclairs and cream puffs. This is the kind of recipe that you are inclined to think requires advanced technique, but it is really quite fast and simple. It is all mixed by hand, and from start to sampling your gougeres fresh from the oven, it only takes about 30-35 minutes. They are tangy and flaky with a bit of spice. Adding the dried mustard to the batter just makes the cheese taste more cheesy--you don't really taste the mustard. Gougeres are perfect to serve for a dinner or cocktail party because they are light and not as filling as bread or rolls, but they are surprising in the amount of flavor that is packed into such a small bite. As always, here are my recipe helpful tips:
- After you have piped the row of "kisses" out onto the baking sheet, they can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours or frozen for up to a week. Thaw them at room temperature before baking.
- Gougeres are best if eaten immediately after baking, but if you have any extras (doubtful), then store them wrapped at room temperature and reheat them in a 350F degree oven, wrapped in foil.
- If you don't have a pastry bag in your kitchen supply, you can substitute a large ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Fill up the bag first and then cut off the corner so that the pastry batter doesn't ooze out as you are filling it!
- Instead of Gruyere cheese, you can use any Swiss-style cheese.
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Heat the milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the mixture simmers and the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and stir. It will become very thick. Add the salt and pepper. Stir hard over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes to dry out the mixture. Turn off the heat and stir to cool slightly.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate each egg before adding the next. Stir in the cheese, mustards, and cayenne pepper and mix until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag.
Pipe the mixture onto the cookie sheet in rows of "kisses", about 1 inch in diameter. Smooth out any bumps on the tops with a finger dipped in flour.
Bake the gougeres for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F degrees and continue baking until they are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let them cool slightly and then serve warm.