Gougeres – or cheese puffs – are French hors d’oeuvres of pâte à choux pastry typically mixed with cheese and baked to a golden, brown crispiness. It is said they originated in Burgundy, and today can have a variation of cheeses and other ingredients. The pastry is also the basis for making éclairs and profiteroles.
I was first introduced to these cheesy little morsels in the 80s in a recipe by James Beard. They are easy to prepare, use typical pantry staples and are addictive. Here is his original recipe.
Combine ¾ cup of hot water and ¼ cup of butter and bring to a boil. Mix in ¾ cup of flour all at once and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the dough is a solid ball and leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and beat in 1 egg (vigorously). Add another egg and beat (vigorously) until glossy and thoroughly blended. Finally, beat in ½ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Drop teaspoonfuls onto a buttered baking sheet (I use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper). Bake in a 375-degree preheated oven until puffy, well browned and crips, about 25 to 30 minutes. You should get about 20 puffs.
I have found it is important to beat the eggs vigorously with a wooden spoon. The mixture may separate a bit but will come together if you continue to beat. Dropping teaspoons of the mixture onto a sheet pan yields a rustic feel with many crispy little points. This time I used a small ice cream scoop, but either works fine.
These are always the first to go at a party. Your guests will love them. Enjoy!