There’s something a little ironic about writing a post for Bastille Day literally hours after coming home from a trip to England, but such is the life of a (not-so) globe-trotting food blogger.
When the Holiday Food Blog Party gang decided to celebrate the French national holiday of Bastille Day a few weeks ago, I immediately called dibs on gougères. They’re one of my favourite classic French pastries – golden bite-sized puffs of savoury choux pastry flavoured with cheese and herbs.
My go-to recipe comes from David Lebovitz. It comes together quite easily, as long as you’ve got your mise en place done before you start cooking, and works like a charm, rising up to golden puffy perfection even when I get lazy and scoop out the dough with a disher instead of piping it out all proper-like. They’re about as foolproof as choux could possibly get.
And while I decided to stick to the classic by using grated Gruyere and a blend of fresh thyme and basil, there are a million different variations that can be achieved simply by changing up the cheese and/or herbs. Think Spanish-style with manchego and smoked paprika, or British with sharp cheddar and chives and spicy mustard, or Italian with Asiago and lots of basil.
The only catch is that gougères, like most choux pastries, are best eaten as soon as they emerge from the oven, with crackling crisp outsides and airy moist interiors. As the day goes on, they start to lose their crispness, which isn’t quite the end of the world… but is still miles away from their earlier glory. You can throw them into a hot oven for a few minutes to re-crisp, but they’ll never be quite the same.
Thankfully, the dough takes well to refrigerating (or even freezing, if you’re planning that far ahead), so you can whip out a batch a-la-minute to impress the pants off your guests.
(Or, y’know, bake up a batch to eat all by yourself. I’m certainly in no position to judge.)
So, you ask, what am I supposed to do with these lovely little morsels, other than cramming them into my mouth as fast as I can? The French like to pop them open and slip a sliver of ham into the pocket to make mini-sandwiches, and they’re quite lovely alongside a soup or stew in lieu of the usual bread. They’re also a great option for parties, if you’re putting together a spread of different little nibblies.
Or, seeing as Bastille Day is around the corner on July 14th, you can bake up a batch to celebrate la Fête Nationale… just pop open a bottle of your favourite French wine, put together a playlist of your favourite French music, set out an assortment of fine French cheeses, and dive in with appropriately gallic gusto.
- ½ cup water
- 3 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup flour
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup grated Gruyère (or any other hard cheese), divided
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely minced
- 1 tsp fresh basil, finely minced
- Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized saucepan set oven medium-high heat, combine the water, butter, salt and pepper, and heat up until the butter is completely melted.
- Immediately add the flour, all at once, and stir vigorously until the dough pulls together into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes to allow the dough to cool off slightly.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. (Don't panic if the batter looks like it's not coming together at first - just keep stirring, and after a minute or so it'll smooth right out.)
- Add ⅔ cup of the grated cheese to the dough, along with the fresh herbs, and stir well until evenly combined. Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip, and pipe small cherry-tomato-sized mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them an inch or so apart. (Alternatively, you can use a 1 tbsp scoop or even a regular spoon to drop dollops of dough onto the cookie sheet - this is my preferred method, because I'm lazy like that.) Sprinkle the top of each puff with a pinch of the remaining cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the gougeres are golden-brown all over. Serve immediately, if at all possible.
This post is part of the Bastille Day Holiday Food Blog Party. For more fabulous Cinco de Mayo goodies, check out the rest of the posts:
- Apple Tarte Tatin from Hungry Couple
- Chaussons aux Pêches from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Dark Chocolate Lavender Sables from gotta get baked
- Chocolate Cherry Brioche from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
- Gougères (Herbed Cheese Puffs) from Crumb
- Mendiant from Cravings of a Lunatic
- Lemon Raspberry Madeleines from Kelly Bakes
- Chocolate Orange Torte from What Smells So Good?
- Cherry Clafoutis from Pineapple and Coconut
- Meyer Lemon Fingerling Potato Salad from Magnolia Days