I refuse to talk about the weather. How winter’s chill has officially cut to the bone, how I can wear a full down jacket with a furry hood, a scarf that wraps around my neck 100 times, extra-thick mittens, fleece-lined leggings, leg warmers and snow boots and STILL shiver me timbers, how all I want to do these days is sit wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace with an oversized mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top cupped in my hands and watch the snow fall against the gray sky and reminisce about those dreamy days back in July when I, if I can even believe it, wore flip flops outdoors and my teeth didn’t chatter incessantly. The wonder!
But like I said, I refuse to talk about it. So let’s talk about these tasty caramelized shallot and smoked Gruyere gougeres — a.k.a. perfect little puffy bites of cheesy, caramelized deliciousness — instead.
It’s been an age and a half since I first made gougeres, and that’s a darn shame. Because if you’ve ever had the fortune of eating one you’d know, as I do now, that they should be a part of one’s life on the regular. Officially, they are French baked pastries made of choux dough mixed with cheese (choux pastry dough, BTW, is a mix of butter, flour, water and eggs and it’s used to make anything from profiteroles to eclairs to, well, gougeres). Unofficially, they are little bites of heaven.
And officially, these particular numbers are going to be a part of my life on the regular, as they should have been all along.
I think some people get all itchy and nervous and red-faced and such when they hear words like “choux” and “pastry” and “baking,” and to those people I say, “Friend, I feel you.” But let me tell you something: This recipe is so not intimidating. There is no yeast to bother with; choux is just a fancy term for mixing flour, butter and water in a saucepan until it forms a ball of dough and then adding eggs to it, really; and as you can see from the photos, I went the ultra-rustic route with these and they still turned out delicious. All’s well that ends well. And this ends with light bite-size puffs of tasty carbs.
And if that’s not enough incentive to get you to bake them (for parties! for mini sandwiches! for date night appetizers! for Scandal night with your popcorn and wine!), let me remind you of the cheese. The shredded smoked Gruyere cheese, to be exact. Plus buttery, crispy, caramelized shallots. Yes.
If you’re not a fan of the whole Gruyere-shallot combo going on here, feel free to play around with the flavors to suit your tastes. I’ve seen gougeres made in all the different ways — with herbs, shredded cheddar, bits of bacon, chopped mushrooms, etc. — and while I haven’t tried all of them (YET, but just you wait), I can’t imagine a flavor that wouldn’t be good if cheese and a puffed mini pastry is involved. Except maybe peanut butter. But even then…
Until next time, gougeres. As in probably tomorrow.
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 shallot bulb, peels removed and thinly sliced
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs
- 6 ounces shredded smoked (or regular) Gruyere cheese
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F and arrange racks on bottom third and upper third of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, combine 1 tablespoon butter and sliced shallots and cook, stirring often, until shallots are caramelized to a crisp golden brown.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 6 tablespoons butter, water, mustard, salt and pepper. Melt butter and bring to a simmer. Add flour and immediately stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Continue stirring 5 minutes until a ball of dough forms and a thin film of flour develops on the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Transfer dough to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Stir on medium speed 1 minute to release some steam from the dough. Stir in 1 egg at a time, beating well at medium speed after each addition until just incorporated. Dough will be clumpy at first, but by the final egg it should be smooth, glossy and just barely pourable.
- Fold in caramelized shallots and shredded cheese.
- Use a spoon, scoop or a piping bag with a ½-inch round tip to form dollops of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Dollops should be about 1½ inches wide and spaced at least 1 inch apart.
- Place one baking sheet on each rack and bake 10 minutes until gougeres are puffy. Rotate pans (place upper baking sheet on lower rack, and lower baking sheet on upper rack) and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes until gougeres are puffy, golden brown and just baked through (to test, remove one from the oven, pull it apart and if the inside is moist but not gooey, they're done. Otherwise, let them bake a little longer).
- Serve gougeres warm or at room temperature.