Are you hosting a New Year’s Eve party? Or have you been invited to one and asked to bring an appetizer? If so, here’s an idea that’s utterly delicious, doesn’t require last-minute heating, and can be made ahead. Yes! In my book, that makes it party perfect.
Gougeres are the classic cheese pastries of Burgundy. Crisp on the outside, tender and eggy in the middle, they tastes incredible just out of the oven, of course, but you can’t keep your hands off of them at room temperature either. If you haven’t had gougeres before, picture cheesy, savory cream puffs, made bite-sized so you can pop them in your mouth, sigh with delight, then swallow with sips of wine. Heavenly.
Don’t be intimidated by the word “pastry.” Gougeres pastry quite easily comes together in one pan, in about 10 minutes—just be ready to do a bit of stirring, since the eggs are beaten into the base by hand. One word of advice: The recipe calls for large eggs; do not substitute extra-large eggs or your batter will be too thin, and the gougeres will be rather flat. I’ve messed around with several different gougeres recipes and this David Lebovitz version is by far my favorite. No surprise—all of his recipes are fantastic, as is his hysterical blog.
Recipe by David Lebovitz
Makes about 60 bite-sized puffs
David’s note: Two things to keep in mind when making these. One is that you should have all the ingredients ready to go before you start. Don’t let the water and butter boil away while you grate the cheese, otherwise you’ll lose too much of the water. Second is to let the batter cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs, so you don’t ‘cook’ them. Make sure that when you stir in the eggs that you do it vigorously, and without stopping. If you don’t have a pastry bag with a plain tip, you can put the dough into a freezer bag, snip off a corner, and use that. Or simply use two spoons to portion and drop the dough onto the baking sheet. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
6 Tbsp. butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp. salt
big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
1 c. flour
4 large eggs (My note: not extra-large, in fact, I choose the smallest of the large eggs I have on hand)
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 c. (about 6 oz.) grated cheese (choose a dry, aged cheese —Gruyere is classic; sharp cheddar is also delicious, or a combination of the two)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Heat the water, butter, salt, and chile or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted. Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest 2 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook.’ The batter will first appear lumpy/curdled, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. Make sure each is incorporated before adding the next. (You can transfer the mixture to a bowl before adding to eggs to cool the dough, or do this step in a food processor or electric mixer, if you wish.)
Stir in the grated Gruyere (and/or cheddar) and the thyme, and stir until well-mixed.
Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato. (Or, using two spoons, just drop the dough onto the baking sheet.) Top each puff with a bit of Parmesan cheese, then pop the baking sheet in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.
For extra-crispy puffs, 5 minutes before they’re done, poke the side of each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam, and return to the oven to finish baking. Serve hot from the oven or cooled to room temperature. (Can be prepared a few hours ahead. Cool to room temperature on wire racks. Cover lightly. Can also be reheated for a few minutes in a 350-degree F oven.)