Many classic French dishes are less intimidating than they sound. A croque monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and pomme frites is a fancy way of saying French fries. Similarly, Gruyère gougères are basically grown-up cheese puffs, and the classy hors d’oeuvres are surprisingly easy to make at home.
This recipe from the Institute of Culinary Education is perfect for home cooks looking to advance their pastry skills. It uses choux (pronounced “shoe”) pastry, which is used to make French desserts like cream puffs and eclairs. Instead of sweet custard or chocolate, these puffs are flavored with savory Gruyère cheese.
To make the dough, whisk together flour and salt and add the dry ingredients to a saucepan of boiling water and butter. Stir the mixture continuously over low heat for about 5 minutes. If you notice a film forming around the dough, that means it’s working. “You keep going until you start seeing a film building up on the bottom of the pan and on the sides of the pan,” ICE’s lead recreational chef-instructor Roger Sitrin tells Mental Floss “And what that does is you have to cook out the flour and you have to allow for some of the moisture to come out of it. By allowing enough moisture to come out of it, you’re going to have a much lighter product in the end.”
Once you have a shiny mass of dough, transfer it to a stand mixer and beat it with a paddle attachment. Mix in the Gruyère cheese before cracking in five eggs one at a time. Once your dough is complete, you can dollop it onto your baking sheet using a piping bag or an ice cream scoop. Baking them at 425°F for eight minutes and 300°F for 10 minutes produces bite-sized morsels that are airy and crisp.
They require more work than cheese and crackers, but Gruyère gougères are easy to make ahead. “When you want to serve them, just wrap them in aluminum foil and pop them in the oven for like five minutes, just to warm them through,” Sitrin recommends. If you’re preparing a cheese plate for your next gathering, homemade cheese puffs will be a welcome addition. “Everyone’s doing characuterie boards these days, and it’s a nice little surprise to have with a charcuterie board.”
If you’re interested in taking your culinary education outside your home kitchen, ICE has campuses in New York and Los Angeles. Their curricula—which includes courses in the culinary arts, pastry and baking arts, and hospitality and hotel management—is available to view online.
Yield: about 25 pieces
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter
3 ounces (1/2 cup) Gruyère cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Heat oven to 425°F.
- Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
- In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine, using a wooden spoon. Continue to cook—stirring often—over a very low flame for about five minutes until you have a shiny ball of dough.
- Remove the dough ball to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and begin beating to release some of the steam. With the mixer still running add all of the Gruyère cheese and beat until incorporated.
- Add the eggs one at a time—waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next. When all of the eggs have been added, place the dough in pastry bags fitted with a large round tip.
- Using baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone baking mats, pipe the dough into small, mounded domes. When all of the dough is piped, wet the tip of your finger and smooth the top of each gougère.
- Sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over each mound of dough. Place the sheet in a preheated oven to bake.
- After eight minutes, turn the pan 180 degrees and reduce the temperature to 300°F.
- Bake 10 minutes more until golden brown and cooked through (the inside should not be “doughy”). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.