I never tire of this recipe. I started cooking it when I started my apprenticeship. It was one of the first things I learnt to cook. This week in the restaurant we cooked the same recipe as a snack at the bar.
Admittedly, the one I cooked 25 years ago used local cheddar. The one we cooked this week used 18-month-aged Gruyere de comté.
I love the fact it’s a timeless recipe that transcends trends. Even 25 years ago it was probably already dated. It’s a classic, based on choux pastry, which is also the basis of a profiterole and an eclair.
As an acknowledgment of tradition we add a pinch of nutmeg – although if you are using outrageous cheese, you could probably drop this.
I’ve been experimenting recently with choux pastry. We have put a small chocolate eclair on the menu as a little snack, flavoured with vanilla cream and candied violets. I love eclairs. As unpatriotic as it is, I would take an eclair over a lamington.
Choux pastry is very simple, but accuracy is important – accurate scales and accurate cooking temperature are a must.
As local appetites for cheese have increased and become increasingly sophisticated, availability of cheeses has improved. But for this dish it is worth resisting the urge to be too complicated. You could add peppers or herbs or other variants, but there is also a strong argument for being purist. As always, the better quality the cheese, the better the finished puff.
I like to serve them fresh from the oven. I would advise champagne as the accompaniment. Once they are baking, it’s near impossible not to want to eat one.
Serves 6-10 as an appetiser
– 80g butter
– 1 tsp salt
– 250ml water
– 150g plain flour
– 4 eggs
– 150g Gruyere cheese, grated
– ⅓ nutmeg, finely grated
– good pinch freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Bring the butter, salt and water to the boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until the butter is melted.
Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan (about two minutes).
Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on the bottom and sides of the pan and the dough is no longer sticky. It should come away from the sides of the pot and move as one ball of dough. This should take about three to four minutes.
Tip the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the eggs in one at a time, incorporating fully between additions. Mix in the cheese, nutmeg and pepper. Continue mixing until the batter has cooled to room temperature (about 20 minutes).
Scrape the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 2.5-centimetre round tip (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a 2.5-centimetre opening cut diagonally from one corner).
Sprinkle two baking trays with a tiny bit of oil or water and cover them with baking paper. The oil or water will hold the baking paper still on the tray as you pipe the gougères.
Pipe rounds about the size of a walnut onto the baking paper-lined trays, leaving room between each for the gougères to rise.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden verging on light brown, and light to the touch when lifted from the tray. If undercooked they will deflate as they cool. The gougères are best served warm but if they have been cooked ahead of time, they can be reheated in a low oven for a couple of minutes.
NV Champagne Egly-Ouriet ‘Les Vignes de Vrigny’ ($132) – Leanne Altmann, wine buyer, Supernormal and Meatsmith
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 15, 2017 as "Sunny on gougères".
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