I'm using my new found confidence with choux pastry (thank you Helene) to retry a recipe that didn't really work for me the last time round. The recipe comes from the book Tartine from the bakery of the same name in San Francisco. One of the most popular items on their menu are their larger than usual gougeres. Gougeres are the savoury counterpart to profiteroles, usually flavoured with gruyere and thyme although you can use different cheese and herb combinations according to your own tastes.
Last time my dough was too wet and trying to discreetly slide it's way off the tray before going in the oven. I ended up with flat, soggy gougeres, a far cry from the featherweight puffs I had been promised by the recipe. It's fair to say that I was a little unwilling to give it another try, partly because I was so disappointed and also because I wasn't entirely sure where I had gone wrong. I do love this book, written by the owners of the bakery, their enthusiasm for what they do is evident. Their style is largely French but simplified so that basic elements of the French patissier shine through in their tarts and gateaux while foregoing some of the usual spun sugars and decorative details. They also have as much passion for the more rustic style of the fruit galettes and clafoutis and the all-American cookies and brownies that no bakery should ever be without. Beautifully captured in both words and photographs their hope seems to be to teach and inspire us readers, whether we are novices or more seasoned bakers. Having said this, one or two of the recipes slipped under the radar and assume a certain level of experience that some of us mere mortals don't have.
Bearing this in mind I returned to the recipe with a little more knowledge and confident that I could make it work this time, or else...! I left the milk, butter and flour paste to cool before adding the eggs (last time I beat them in straight away). I added the eggs one at a time and kept an eye on the dough until it was at the consistency I wanted (thick mayonnaise), I ended up using one egg less than that called for in the recipe. Lastly I upped the temperature of the oven for the first ten minutes of cooking hoping to kick-start that puffiness before turning down the heat again. This time I got my big fat featherweight puffs with a crisp burnished gold exterior (I've always wanted to use "burnished" in a sentence, I think I'll make it my word for the week), it took only one bite to reveal the soft, eggy, cheesiness inside, flavoured with pepper and thyme.
You can make these as small perfect mouthfuls, or large as they do at the Tartine Bakery where they serve tray after tray of them hot from the oven every morning. I have only ever tried the large ones... sometimes size matters.
Recipe is mildly adapted from Tartine
- 155ml milk
- 155ml water
- 140g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup plain flour or strong bread flour
- 4-5 large eggs
- 115g Gruyére cheese, grated
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- Large egg whisked with a pinch of salt to glaze
- Extra grated Gruyére for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 190 C. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Make the choux paste by combining the milk, butter and salt in a heavy based saucepan and place over a medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth paste and pulls away from the side of the saucepan, squishing any lumps that may have formed against the side of the pan. Cook until some of the moisture has evaporated, about three minutes.
- Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you can do this with the wooden spoon but believe me your arms will not thank you for it!). On a medium speed beat in the eggs one at a time incorporating each one before adding the next. Add the eggs until you have a thick, smooth, shiny dough the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Add the cheese, pepper and herbs, mixing in with a rubber spatula.
- To make small gougéres put the dough into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip. Pipe 1 inch mounds onto the prepared baking sheet spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Or use a spoon to drop the dough in 1 inch mounds.
- For the large ones, use a large spoon to form 3-inch rounds about 1 inch high on the sheet spacing them about 2 inches apart. Brush with the egg wash and top with the cheese. Bake for ten minutes at 190 C, then reduce the heat to 170 C. Bake until they have puffed, are light for their size and are golden brown, 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and poke a small hole in the side of each pastry to allow the steam to escape (this is unnecessary for the small ones). They can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days and recrisp at 170 C for 5 minutes.
Makes 30 little 'uns or 8-10 big boys.