This time of year is crazy for most of us. For myself and lots of others, the holidays mean working longer, harder hours at our jobs while also trying to keep track of a crazy social calendar – there are always more get-togethers and parties and work functions in the lead up to Christmas. Whether you’re hosting or bringing a treat to someone else’s shindig, it’s sometimes hard to know what to make, or worse, when you’ll have time to make it. My solution this year: cheddar gougères, little French cheese puffs that are dangerously addictive and easy to make a huge batch of (and bake straight from the freezer). In other words, the perfect party food.
Gougères are made from choux pastry, the same way cream puffs or eclairs are made. It’s a simple dough that you whip up on the stove, add a few choice mix-ins like aged cheddar, black pepper and thyme, then plop (or pipe) onto baking sheets destined for either the oven or the freezer – more on that later. They don’t look like much at first, but they puff up to almost three times their unbaked size, and get gloriously golden and crispy and cheesy on the outside. Inside, they’re buttery and light as little clouds. The term “once you pop, you can’t stop” is probably the most appropriate way to describe them.
This recipe from Tartine Bakery makes about 60 little gougères, so you can bake some right away and keep some for later – or bake them all if you’ve got a lot – or a few – hungry friends to feed. Left unsupervised, I can make like 10 of these disappear in two minutes flat.
If you want to save some for later, just place place a whole baking sheet of formed gougère dough (see image above) in the freezer. Once the little pucks are frozen, you can remove them from the pan and store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month. When you’re ready, you can bake them straight from the freezer; just beat up an egg and brush it over the tops of the gougères, sprinkle with a little extra cheese, and increase their time in the oven by about 10 minutes.
- 1¼ cups milk (either 1% or skim)
- 10 tablespoon (140g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- ¾ cup (115g) aged cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 large egg
- Pinch of salt
- Grated cheddar, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, butter, and salt, stirring occasionally until it comes to a full boil. Add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. The mixture will clump and sizzle; keep stirring until it has formed a smooth paste that comes away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl (use the paddle attachment if you're using a stand mixer), and, mixing on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. The dough should be thick and glossy. Add the cheese, pepper, and thyme and mix on low speed for a few seconds just until incorporated. (Note: you can do all the mixing by hand with a wooden spoon, just make sure each egg is well incorporated before adding another one).
- To pipe the gougères, scoop the dough into a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip (I used an 804), and pipe 1-inch dollops onto your prepared baking sheet, keeping them about 1-1/2 inches apart. If you don't want to pipe them, you can use two small spoons to drop them into little mounds.
- Prepare the topping by whisking the egg and salt together in a small bowl, and brushing the tops of each gougère with the egg wash. Sprinkle each one with a little bit of cheese. Bake for 26-28 minutes, until the gougères are golden brown and puffed. Serve hot from the oven or at room temperature.