I must share a confession: I judge a restaurant by its bread. I'm not proud of it, but over the years I've found it's a necessary evil. Bread is like a restaurant's first impression. Or better yet, first date. In most restaurants, the bread shows up before one has a chance to lock eyes with the waiter, order a cocktail, or even take a sip from the water glass that somehow flew out of the busboy's hands and onto the table. Whether it's a whole roll or a sliced baguette, bread should be fresh and warm to the touch, crusty on the outside and steamy on the inside, and emitting a wonderfully yeasty aroma. Bonus points if the bread is made in house, served with a pat of butter sprinkled with flakes of sea salt, or if it is not bread at all, but rather a gougère.
Meet the Gougère
A gou-what, you might say? A gougère is simply a fancy-schmancy name for a still-steaming, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, cheese puff. Say it with me: cheese puff. If an old-fashioned biscuit got busy with a cheese soufflé, it would have a gougère baby. On the inside it's creamy and steamy, but on the outside it's a baked, cheesy, crunchy shell of goodness. Unfortunately, there's only one restaurant in L.A. that I know of -- hello, Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao -- that serves gougères before its meals, but neither my wallet nor my cholesterol level can handles weekly dinners there. So instead, I tested a homemade gougère recipe. And guess what? It turned out fantastic so I want to share it with you, too. It's perfect for holiday party appetizers or pre-dinner bread. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
- Sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
Make the gruyeres: Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine the milk with the water, butter and salt; bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the flour all at once with the Piment d'Espelette and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the heat to low, return the saucepan to the burner and cook the gougère dough, stirring constantly, until the dough pulls away from the side of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of grated Gruyere cheese and stir until cheese it melted and incorporated into dough.
Bring milk, water, salt & butter to a boil
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the dough cools slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring briskly between additions to thoroughly incorporate each egg. Important note: a wooden spoon is crucial here. If you don't own one, use the wooden handle of a spatula.
Add eggs, one at a time, until dough is smooth and sticky
Drop three-tablespoon mounds of dough onto the baking sheets, two inches apart. Top each round with one tablespoon of Gruyere cheese; sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Drop mounds of dough two inches apart on parchment paper
Bake the gougères for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake for 30 minutes longer, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the gougères are puffed and browned. Turn off the oven, propping the door ajar with a wooden spoon. Let the gougères rest in the oven for about 30 minutes longer, until crisp on the outside but still steamy within. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Make ahead: The gougères can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in a 350° oven for about 8 minutes.
Bake gougères according to instructions above