by Susan on March 8, 2010

French restaurants often serve Gougeres nestled in a basket or small bowl, covered with a napkin for warmth. Sometimes they’re served as an elegant bar snack. So while they’re not uncommon, Gougeres still manage to feel like a special treat. These savory cheese pastries are perfect for a pre-dinner nibble or as an accompaniment to your favorite libation. And the best news is that you can make Julia Child proud by making them at home. I love that they keep your hostess-with-the-mostess reputation intact, without ruining your guests’ appetites for whatever fabulous meal follows. They smell ridiculously good while they’re cooking and much excitement ensues when these golden beauties emerge, crusty and soft all at once, from your oven. Good luck getting them off the baking sheet and onto a serving platter before someone snags one.

Gougeres from Jacques Pépin (makes about 30)

1 cup milk (I used whole milk)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash cayenne pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Coarse salt (fleur de sel or kosher salt) to sprinkle on top

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat, add the flour all at once, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute to dry the mixture a bit. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, let cool for 5 minutes, then process for about 5 seconds.

Add the eggs and paprika to the processor bowl, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until well mixed. Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese, then add the remainder and all the Swiss cheese to the choux paste. Stir just enough to incorporate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out a level tablespoon of the gougère dough, and push it off the spoon onto the cooking mat. Continue making individual gougères, spacing them about 2-inches apart on the sheet. Sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt and a little of the reserved Parmesan cheese on each gougère. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with drinks.

*Mine were perfect at the 23-25 minute mark. Keep your eye on them.

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