My first date in Paris was memorable not just because it was my premier romantic rendez-vous with a Frenchman since arriving in the City of Light, but also because of the French recipe I would learn and love afterwards.
I met Jean-Claude along the banks of the Seine on a beautiful summer Sunday. Yes France does in fact have sunny days on occasion. We sat on a park bench facing the sun soaked streets of St. Germain while exchanging pleasantries in cobbled Franglish. While we were talking he began pulling out wonderful items from his backpack like a foodie magician. First came a nice bottle of white wine from the Loire Valley. Then there was a small bag of ripe red, cherry tomatoes just purchased from the marchè that morning. The last small, brown bag he handed to me without comment. It was warm on the bottom and there were a few grease stains shining through the edges.
I opened the warm bag to find bite size, light colored looking rolls. I popped one in my mouth and realized this wasn’t a roll, or a biscuit, or even a tiny croissant. I investigated further as Jean-Claude opened the wine, and discovered an airy puff of cheesy pastry that nearly disintegrated in my mouth with next to no effort. I asked where he bought this lovely puff of dough, and he said he made them that morning. I sat astounded that this Frenchman I barely knew baked for me on our first date and baked this delectable dose of air.
I would soon learn that making gougères wasn’t quite as hard as dating a Frenchman on foreign soil. Gougères use a pâte à choux dough like you would use with a cream puff or an éclair, giving it a light, doughy, eggy texture, but then you add some of your favorite cheese like Comte or Gruyere, and mix it with another salty cheese such as Parmesan. Pop it in the oven and you have a nice substitute for the dinner roll, or a great appetizer to serve with bubbly and start your evening.
While Jean-Claude and I didn’t make it through a season in Paris, he did give me the gift of the gougère, and that is still with me today.
Makes about 16
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- dash of piment d’esplette or cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup grated Comte or Gruyere cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
- Pour the water, butter, piment d’Espelette and salt into a small but heavy saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring to combine.
- Turn the heat off but keep the pan on the burner and add all the flour at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and pulls from the sides.
- When the dough forms a ball, remove from the stove and let it rest for 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time and quickly stir to combine.
- Combine the cheese with the dough, reserving one tablespoon for topping the puffs before baking.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment and drop about one tablespoon of dough every two inches to allow space for the gougères to rise. Place the remaining cheese on top of each puff.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the gougères turn golden. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
See more great French recipes like this one on Girls' Guide to Paris.