No doubt that a tall pint of Guinness would be the perfect accompaniment for the Guinness Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream in my previous post. Now I want to switch gears just a bit and give you a recipe that is a match made in heaven for champagne. While a good beer (and a cupcake!) can be a frequent indulgence, champagne is a bit more special. And because that bubbly can go to your head awfully quickly, you need an equally special snack to nibble on while you sip.
I made these gougères (pronounced goo-ZHAIR) with Gruyère cheese for the Oscars last weekend. Just because I’m not a movie star doesn’t mean I can’t pop open some sparkling wine and have an Oscar soirée in my living room. That’s the beautiful thing about food…it is an equal opportunity luxury.
Gougères are made with pâte à choux (paht-ah-SHOO), a simple French pastry dough that is also used to make cream puffs. Gougères, however, are a savory hors d’oeuvre that I would describe as the most fabulous cheese balls you’ll ever eat. They get very crisp on the outside, but stay moist, soft and airy on the inside thanks to the steam produced by their high water content and the buttery, eggy dough. They are the ultimate match, in my opinion, for a dry Champagne (brut) with toasty, yeasty flavors or—as I’ve heard wine reviewers describe it—with notes of brioche.
My philosophy is that we need to make as many celebrations in life as we can, from an overrated awards show to an intimate Sunday brunch, to Friday night (ANY Friday night). I was celebrating before we even opened the bubbly because making these gougères made me feel like a sophisticated French pastry chef. They are really easy to put together, but that’s no reason not to feel triumphant. And because I did not have to squeeze into a sample size Versace gown to walk the red carpet, I ate a rather celebratory number of these addictive little tasties!
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious.com
You can serve these golden little puffs as they are or cut them horizontally and use as crudite. I sautéed a pint of sliced mushrooms in olive oil and butter, added a couple splashes of sherry and stirred in sour cream, and used it as a topper for my gougères. I saw Sam something similar on her blog, Becks and Posh, and I think it is a brilliant idea. If you don’t have gruyère, another firm, slightly salty cheese will work fine. I think good cheddar, Parmigiano or Pecorino-Romano would be delicious.
Makes 40 1 1/2 inch gougères
1 c. water
½ c. butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 c. grated gruyère cheese, lightly packed
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
cayenne pepper, a couple dashes or to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the water is hot (steaming, but not boiling), add the butter, salt and sugar. Stir occasionally until the butter is completely melted. Lower the heat and stir the butter mixture with a wooden spoon vigorously as you gradually add the flour. Keep stirring vigorously until the mixture comes to together and starts forming a tacky ball in the pan.
Turn the dough out into a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat in the eggs, one at a time on medium speed. You want the dough to be smooth, firm and waxy. I have always used two large eggs, but the original recipe on epicurious.com says you may need an additional egg. If your dough is not smooth after beating in two eggs, you may want to add an extra egg, or half an egg. It is important that the dough is firm enough to stand up in round balls when you spoon it onto a cookie sheet without spreading. It should be as firm as cookie dough, but it is much softer and lighter. The sticky, waxy quality is unique and you will know it when you see it. Just go with your instincts, and the dough will come out fine.
After you are done adding the eggs, use a wooden spoon to stir in the cheese, mustard and cayenne. Spoon small one inch balls of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The gougeres are done when they are lightly browned on top and brown on the bottom. As soon as you take them out of the oven, use a sharp, thin knife (like a paring knife) to poke a small slit in the side of each puff. This will release some of the hot air inside and prevent the puffs from "sweating" and losing their crispness. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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