Remember our friend, pâte à choux, the French pastry dough? It’s time we turned it into little appetizers, gougères (pronounced “goo-zhair”), also known as cheese puffs. The version I’ve made is flavored like Roman cacio e pepe pasta (cheese and pepper) but the flavors you choose are only limited by your imagination.
Pâte à Choux is the easiest of the French pastry doughs and you can transform them into sweet or savory entrees, appetizers, or desserts. I love their flexibility! A while back I shared that my mom used to make large puffs to house shrimp salad (see: Spring Screams Shrimp Salad).
Gougères may be eaten as is, warm out of the oven or at room temperature. Alternatively, they may be filled (example: Cream cheese mixed with mascarpone and chopped herbs, crispy bacon bits, chopped nuts, etc.). A fun idea is to make a variety of fillings and let your guests break open a puff and fill their own.
Any dryer cheese may be used in this recipe such as parmesan, pecorino, asiago, etc. I suggest avoiding any really moist cheese that produces a lot of grease or water once melted. Like I said, this is a very flexible dough and recipe.
Unfilled gougères freeze well, too. Once completely cooled, place them into a plastic freezer bag. When ready to use, bring them to room temperature then pop them into a pre-heated 350F (180C) oven for about 5-7 minutes.
Aggiornamento Arliano (Arliano Update):
We are in the process of moving into the country house. While we still have a valid parking permit for the city center, we’re doing much of the move ourselves. This means that mysterious bruises, cuts and scrapes have been populating our bodies — we’re excited, but exhausted. The larger furniture pieces will follow by a moving company once we sell our current apartment, which will be an exercise in patience, for sure. Try selling an apartment during Covid in Italy — it may take a while! In the meantime, we’ll largely be camping in the new house until that happens.
The garden is coming along nicely. Zucchini flowers just started popping; the potatoes are right on schedule; and the corn is growing 6 inches every week. The tomatoes are doing well enough that we’ve started building a fence for them to climb using materials from an old home renovation — thrifty! I’ve also built “tee-pees” out of bamboo and tree branches for the beans to climb, but due to a couple of weeks of rain and cold weather, they are taking their sweet time.
Did you enjoy reading or making the recipe from this post? If so, please consider giving it a “like” or a comment. It would be nice to know you are out there and that my posts connect with you.
Cacio e Pepe Gougères (cheese and pepper cheese puffs)
- 1 cup (125 g) flour
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water or milk (or half of each)
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (113 g, or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, Grana Padano, Asiago or Pecorino cheese, divided
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
- Pinch of kosher or sea salt
- Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C)
- Over medium heat, bring water (or milk), butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan
- Once boiling, add the flour to the saucepan all at once. Quickly stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Keep stirring until the dough forms a rough ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. This should take about 30 seconds
- Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl (or food processor) and let it cool for a few minutes
- Beat (or process) the dough for about 20 seconds to release more heat. Then, while beating (or processing), add one egg at a time. It will look messy at first, but with enough beating it will come together
- Add 3/4 of the grated cheese to the dough along with the black or white pepper and reserve the remaining 1/4 cup cheese
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat and using a heaping teaspoon of dough or a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch (1 cm) tip, form balls. These will expand in the oven so space them 2 inches (5 cm) apart
- Using your finger, gently brush each choux ball with a little milk and sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over each ball
- Bake for 15 minutes at 400F (200C), then reduce the temperature to 350F (180C) and bake for another 30 minutes
- Turn off the oven and pierce the side of each gougère with a sharp knife to let out steam. Leave them in the oven with the oven turned off and the door slightly open until they are completely cool
Thanks for a fun read, Greg. I’m not a cook but you don’t have to be to enjoy your write ups. Glad the country house is coming along.
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