Goat Cheese & Herb Gougères
When we lived in Boston, I used to occasionally take cooking classes at the Cambridge Culinary Institute. One of my favorite classes was on pâte à choux, the egg-leavened dough used to make “stuff with puff,” like éclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles, and gougères. I remember standing in the kitchen classroom, intensely focused on the pot in front of me. I heated butter and milk together, stirred in flour, and then beat in eggs, one by one, until a smooth, sticky and slightly elastic dough formed: choux paste. It doesn’t look like much in its batter form–just butter, flour, milk and eggs–but I was happily anticipating the dramatic transformation it would undergo in the oven. I made a batch of eclairs, carefully piping the choux paste into plump fingers on a baking sheet. Then I made a batch of Roquefort gougères, mixing crumbled blue cheese with the choux paste before piping it into little spheres. I slid the sheets into the oven, and waited. The transformation always tickles me: it’s a delightful feat of culinary alchemy, the way the eggs in the dough leaven a sticky batter and transform it into gorgeously browned, light, airy puffs of pastry.
My favorite recipe from the class was the Roquefort gougères, and I’ve made them periodically since then for a little snack on the weekend, or for an appetizer. Gougères typically have Gruyere cheese in them (delicious, believe me!) but you can mix in other kinds of cheese as well — blue cheese is terrific, as is goat cheese — and it was the latter option I went with this weekend, along with some herbs that I had leftover from another dish I’d made.
A few notes about the dough: your arms do get a bit of a workout mixing the melted butter, milk, and flour together, but I find it’s not really a big enough deal to warrant a switch over to my electric mixer and paddle attachment. You can make the dough and freeze it directly in a ziptop bag, thawing it thoroughly before you pipe it into rounds. Or, you can fully bake the gougères, let them cool completely and then freeze them in a single layer in a ziptop bag — just reheat for 5-10 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. They’re just about as good as the day you bake them! And definitely do serve them warm: they’re like a hot little cloud of eggy dough with a fleeting taste of cheese and herb…delicious.
Goat Cheese & Herb Gougères
Adapted from the Cambridge Culinary Institute
You could substitute various kinds of cheese in this recipe. The original used crumbled Roquefort, which was absolutely delicious. Cheddar or Gruyere would be quite good, too.
1 cup milk
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, divided
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese; use something local if you can get it
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as chives or parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, milk and salt and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Whisk for a few minutes, then return the pan to the heat and continue whisking to dry the paste out slightly. Remove the heat from the pan again, switch to a wooden spoon, and add 4 of the eggs — one at a time — stirring to make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the goat cheese and chopped fresh herbs.
Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets (or drop by the tablespoonful). Beat the remaining egg, then brush the tops of each puff with it. Sprinkle each with a little grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake each sheet, one at a time, in the 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned and the gougeres are puffed. Serve warm, or let cool completely and freeze in a ziptop bag (you can reheat in an oven on a baking sheet before you’re ready to serve.)
Makes about 2 dozen, plus a few.