Gougères are my secret weapon this time of year. This means a bag in the freezer, always at the ready. I make the dough ahead of time (any afternoon I have a few extra minutes) then bake them straight from the freezer whenever I fancy. There is something irresistible about the way they explode in size. The way they bake into golden pom-poms of cheese-crusted magic. Like soufflés, I think there is a perception that they're tricky to make. But, I promise, with a little practice (and know-how) you can have an impressive platter piled sky-high with puffery with next to no effort.
How To Make Gougères: The Basics
Gougères are a baked savory pastry made with a French choux dough mixed with cheese. They have a reputation as being difficult, but they're really not. They're more fun than anything. To make gougères you combine liquids (water, milk, beer, etc.), butter and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You add flour and stir madly into a smooth paste. After allowing the paste to cool a bit, you work in eggs - one at a time. Then add grated cheese and any other herbs, spices or other flavoring ingredients you're inspired to try. Dollop onto baking sheets and bake! I'll provide my go-to gougère recipe below, get comfortable with that and then have a blast making endless variations.
Can I make Gougères Without a Mixer?
Yes! And it's my favorite way to do it. There are a number of approaches people take when making gougères. I opt for the path resulting in the best result and the least amount of dishes and devices to wash after. Meaning, I use a one-pan method, stirring by hand. I don't bother with a mixer. And depending on the day, I will sometimes push dollops of the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets from a spoon rather than piping from a bag. I will say, piping delivers gougères with beautiful rise, more-so than dropping dollops with a spoon. But the former is still pretty impressive!
This Gougères Recipe
This recipe calls for beer and milk as the liquids in the batter, but the direction you take the flavors is adaptable. I love the maltiness beer brings to the dough, set off by the bite of sharp cheddar cheese. Skip the super hoppy IPAs here. You might trade out the beer for water, tea, or other flavorful liquid. I like a bit of milk in the batter, as it helps the dough bake into that lovely golden-brown color. Also, don't feel married to this combination of cheese and herb/spices, it's a favorite, but I certainly vary each batch based on what is on hand. I'll list some variations below.
How To Make Gougères Video
Before I forget. See the little pointy bits on some of my gougères? They can happen after piping dough onto the sheet pan. To get rid of them simply use a finger to press the dough level just before baking. You can see the difference below. I left them on about half, and pressed them out of the other half.
Important Things to Know
There are a few important details you don't want to learn the hard way when it comes to making gougères.
- Eggs: First, be sure to use large eggs (not extra-large).
- Get ready: Prep all your ingredients ahead of time.
- Avoid under-baking: Let the gougères brown all the way, particularly up the sides, before pulling them from the oven. The resulting structure will prevent the tops caving.
I made this batch (pictured) with ale, a strong cheddar cheese, and one well-chopped serrano pepper. But the variations you can dream up are endless. Some ideas:
- Fennel & Cheddar Gougères: Add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. It's nice with the beer and cheese.
- Mustard Sesame Gougères: Add a couple teaspoons of strong mustard and sprinkle the gougeres with sesame seeds prior to baking. A bit of fresh thyme is nice here as well.
- Whole Grain Flour Gougères: Substitute in up to half the weight in flour with whole wheat flour or rye flour.
- Spicy Lemon & Cayenne Gougères: Swap in goat cheese for the cheddar and stir in the zest of one lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.
See what I mean? Just start playing around. You can also play with color. As I mention up above, you can replace some of the liquid in this recipe with fresh, strong juices. For example, carrot juice, turmeric water, beet juice, etc. Have fun experimenting!
I've included a bunch of tips and things in the main post. If this is the first time you've made gougères, be sure to give that a quick read-through first, before jumping in.
- 2/3 cup / 160 ml beer / ale OR water
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml milk
- 8 tablespoons butter, thickly sliced
- 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 cup / 130 g all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup / 3 1/4 oz / 90 g sharp white cheddar, grated on box grater
- 1 serrano chile, minced (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F / 220C, with a rack in top third. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Bring the beer, milk, butter, and salt just to a boil in a large (thick-bottomed) saucepan over medium-high heat. Dial back the heat a bit. Add the flours and use a wooden spoon to stir, stir, stir. Really go at it. Keep going for a couple minutes, until the dough comes together smoothly, and gives off a faint toasty scent. Remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally to let heat out, for about ten minutes. Long enough that the eggs won't cook when you attempt to work them in.
One at a time, add each of the four eggs, stirring vigorously after each addition. Really work each egg in. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese, and right away pipe (using a pastry bag) or scoop gougères onto the prepared baking sheet in heaping tablespoon-sized dollops, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches between each. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Place in the oven, bake for FIVE minutes, then dial the heat back to 375, and bake another 20- 25 minutes, or until gougères are deeply golden all over, puffed, and well set. If you notice the gougeres in the back browning much more quickly than the ones in the front, quickly but carefully, spin the sheet 180 degrees about 2/3 through.
Alternately, if you aren't baking the gougères immediately: shape pans of gougère dough, sprinkle with cheese, and freeze for 1/2 hour. Transfer to a freezer bag at this point, until you're ready to bake. Bake straight from the freezer, same as above, with a couple extra minutes.
Makes ~ 2 dozen 3-inch gougères.