There are just 5 basic ingredients in these simple but fancy little cheese puffs with the funny French name, gougères. They'll never know they're gluten free unless you tell!
What are gougères?
Gougères are basically cheese puffs, made with a silky, smooth, pipable and scoopable pastry called a choux pastry (pronounced “choo”). If you add cheese as we did here, they're gougères, which sounds fancy because it has a French accent mark on it, and the second “g” is a soft g. If you don't add cheese, they're cream puffs, which can be split and served with ice cream and chocolate sauce and you have profiteroles. Voilà!
Instead of shying away from the fact that it's French, I say we go for it (/please don't say ‘lean in' to it I'm begging/). We don't have to pretend that we're too cool to pretend to be cool with our French-sounding cheese puffs. We can just be cool. ?
These make such a lovely presentation, with relative ease (you just have to clean up the food processor, which personally I hate but these are worth it!), and they're perfect for serving as a holiday appetizer. Picture these beautiful puffs served with some sparkling wine.?So festive!
Oh, so they're popovers?
Not exactly… Gougères are really similar to popovers, which I've made with grated cheese in them as well. But they're not exactly the same. And there's even an argument to be made that they're better than popovers.
Both choux pastry and popovers have the same basic ingredients: butter, milk, flour, and eggs. Neither popovers nor gougères have any sort of chemical leavener like baking soda or baking powder. But somehow they both still puff up like crazy in the oven, creating a light, airy puff with a creamy bottom.
How are they different from popovers, then?
The difference in the end result between popovers and choux pastry is in the balance of ingredients. Popovers, when raw, are more of a batter than a dough, as it's a bit thinner and choux pastry is a richer dough.
There's about twice as much butter in choux pastry as in popovers, and the choux pastry dough is cooked on the stovetop before the eggs (and cheese, if any) are added in a food processor or blender and processed until smooth.
No special equipment needed
Popovers really do require a special popover pan. To puff up big and proud, they need to be in a muffin-like pan that has deep wells that are far apart from one another. That allows the hot air of the oven to circulate all around each well, giving it a boost right away.
Gougères do not require a special pan. They don't even really require a pastry piping bag, since a disposable zip-top bag with the corner cut off will do just fine.
Since choux pastry doesn't require a pan, you can make them any size you like. You can pipe them into tiny mounds as you see in the photos in this post, or you can pipe them larger as you see in the how-to video in this post.
Ingredients and substitutions
Sadly, choux pastry does not lend itself to being made egg-free, since this recipe calls for 4 whole eggs. I'm afraid I can't imagine an egg substitute getting that job done.
Dairy-free: Making this recipe dairy free has its challenges, as you'd have to replace the cow's milk, butter, and cheese with dairy-free alternatives, but I'm actually somewhat optimistic that it can be done. I've made popovers with dairy-free substitutes and they've come out pretty good.
Here's what I suggest. Replace the cow's milk with unsweetened almond milk, the butter with Melt brand VeganButter (or Miyoko's Kitchen brand), and the cheese with Daiya brand shredded cheese.
The lightest cheese puffs will be made with my gluten free pastry flour blend, which contains nonfat dry milk, but you can instead use 104 grams Better Batter gluten free flour + 18 grams blanched finely ground almond flour + 18 grams cornstarch instead of the blend listed in the recipe.
Corn-free: The cornstarch in the pastry flour blend can be replaced with arrowroot to make this recipe corn-free.
Gougères (Cheese Puffs)
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) milk (not nonfat milk!)
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (140 g) gluten free pastry flour (113 grams Better Batter gluten free flour or other similar blend + 12 grams nonfat dry milk + 15 grams cornstarch)
4 eggs (200 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature
4 ounces semi-hard cheese like Gruyère or sharp cheddar, grated
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a medium-size saucepan, place the milk, butter, and salt, and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture begins to simmer. Turn off the heat and add the pastry flour, stirring vigorously. Turn the heat back on to medium-low and continue to stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the pan and comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. A thin film will form on the bottom of the pan. Set the mixture aside to cool until no longer hot to the touch (about 3 minutes) so you don’t scramble the eggs in the next step.
Transfer half of the dough to a food processor or blender. Pour about half of the eggs on top, then the rest of the dough and the remaining eggs. Pulse the mixture in the blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth and well-blended. Add the cheese, and pulse until the dough is completely smooth. Transfer the dough to a large pastry bag fitted with a large, plain piping tip that is about 1 -inch in diameter (or smaller for smaller puffs). Pipe the dough onto the prepared baking sheet into about twenty mounds, each about 1 1/4-inches in diameter, leaving about 1 1/2-inches between puffs. With wet fingers, gently smooth the tops of the pastries so there’s nothing protruding from the dough that might burn during baking.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until lightly golden brown all over, about 18 minutes (or less, depending upon size). For the most stable pastries, turn off the oven after they’re finished baking, prop the oven door open and allow the pastries to sit in the oven as it cools, or for at least 10 minutes. Remove the pastries from the oven and serve immediately.
Adapted from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More by Nicole Hunn. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2013.