Don’t let the fancy French name scare you from this delicious appetizer; these gougères (I pronounce them “goo-yers” because that’s as frenchy as I get) are a cheese-and-carb-lovers delight. I describe them often as “cheesy balls” (haha) but that really describes their moist cheese-flavored interior and the slightly crunchy outside. I’ve tried a similar recipe for pão de queijo, which is the Brazilian version of cheesy balls made with tapioca flour. The recipe from the Tartine cookbook asks for much more butter (see the grease stains on the baking sheet in the photo?) than the Brazilian version, which gives it a really amazing flavor of course. The dough for the cheese balls is called a choux paste, which is used throughout French pastry (think cream puffs) and is relatively simple to make and does not require any yeast or kneading like other breads (you actually add the flour to a mixture of boiling butter and milk to form the dough!) And the compliments that you’ll get from making this will never end ;)
Total time: ~45-60 mins
(Adapted from Tartine by Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson)
Makes ~30 small appetizer-sized breads
1 ¼ cup of skim (non-fat) milk
10 Tbsp (1 stick + 2 Tbsp) of butter
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of flour
5 large eggs
¾ cup (4 oz) of gruyère cheese, grated
1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp of fresh thyme, minced
1 large egg
A pinch of salt
Grated gruyère cheese for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 350oF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. To make the choux paste, combine milk, butter, and salt to a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture reaches a full boil.
3. Add the flour to the boiling mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has formed a smooth dough and most of the moisture has evaporated (~3 mins).
4. Transfer the dough to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Begin to mix at medium speed and add eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each before adding the next. The dough will be sticky and shiny.
5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the cheese, pepper, and thyme and combine with a wooden spoon.
6. Spoon out ~1” portions of the dough onto the parchment paper. For a more consistent shaped ball, you can use a piping bag to dispense the dough or use two spoons to help shape the ball into uniform sizes.
7. To prepare the topping, combine the last egg and salt and beat until well mixed. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto the tops of the balls, then top with gruyere cheese.
8. Bake at 350oF for ~25 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.
Results and Discussion
I tried to follow this recipe to the “T” because this was my first attempt, but there are a lot of variations that you can do with this recipe. You can use dried thyme like I did (I wasn’t about to spend $4 to add a teeny bit of fresh thyme) and the amount can be approximate, as can the amount of pepper (I’m heavy-handed with pepper). Try a different cheese or a mix of cheeses (a jalepeno cheese would make this a spicy appetizer!) or make the puffs bigger for a more substantial bread. Best served warm, but still tasty when cool, these cheesy balls can be stored in the fridge for a few days. To reheat, just pop them in the oven or toaster oven (350oF) for ~5 minutes.
If I am going to make this recipe again (and I probably will since it was a BIG hit at my party), I’ll probably cut out 2-4 tablespoons of butter and see if that still tastes good! Most likely I will need to add the equivalent amount in milk to substitute for the loss of moisture from the butter, which acts to bind the flour into the dough. I'll try this "lightened" recipe, I'll let you know how it goes!