My dad was in town for a few days and even though he bosses me around, wakes up way too early and always tells me my car needs to be cleaned, I had the best time ever. Living across the country from my parents is hard. When I see them, I see them differently, and after they leave I always tend to think a lot about my childhood.
My dad and I have always baked together. It’s the thing we share. My dad isn’t a pro-baker or anything like that—he does it strictly as a hobby, and for many years it was his favorite hobby. A few years ago, over a holiday break, my dad and I spent two days baking gougeres. We had no idea what we were doing, but we followed a bunch of recipes, tweaked a bunch of stuff and after two days we finally ended up with a batch we deemed totally perfect.
After my dad left town all I wanted to do was make something that felt familiar and something that reminded me of the man who taught me to how to change a tire and the man who taught me the value of never quitting.
Gougeres are made from pate a choux. If you’ve never made it before you may think it’s a weird and wrong.
The recipe begins by cooking butter with water, flour, and in this case, beer. And then you mix in eggs–even though they might not feel like they can actually be incorporated into the dough. They eventually do.
This batter has the ability to swing to the savory or sweet side. Profiteroles and eclairs both use the pate a choux.
This savory version is special. These little things…they’re just a tad bit yeast-y from the beer. The beer flavor isn’t super strong. I made them twice – once with a saison by Modern Times and the second time using a pilsner.
Saisons are Belgium farmhouse ales that are usually made with coriander and orange peel. And saisons usually have kind of a pleasantly funky flavor to them. For this baking situation, I found the saison to work best. The pilsner was a bit too subtle for my taste, but really I’m not sure you can go wrong because, well, there’s cheese. And cheese makes everything better. We all know this.
After Josh ate a few he gave these gougeres the best compliment ever, which was, “these things taste like Cheez-Its!”
Beer and Cheese Gougeres
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, water
1/2 cup beer (I used a saison and pilsner)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 ounces all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1. Preheat the oven for 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, beer and salt and bring to a slight boil. Once the mixture reaches the boil, immediately turn the heat off and pour in the flour; vigorously stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Continue mixing until the dough dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the dough into a bowl, allowing it to cool, slightly, for 2 minutes. In a small bowl, crack in one egg, being sure to remove any shells that might have fallen in. Pour the egg into the dough and mix—at first, the dough may seem too wet for the egg to incorporate, just keep going—it’ll eventually come together. Repeat with the remaining 4 eggs. The dough should appear shiny, smooth and should fall back on itself, creating ribbons when you lift the wooden spoon. Lastly, stir in the finely grated cheese.
4. You have two options here: In the past, I’ve always transferred the dough to a piping bag fitted with 1/2-inch tip and piped out tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart. On this particular day I wanted to go an easier route and used a 2-inch ice cream scooper, spacing the mounds of dough about 1-inch apart. (Some of the mounds were less than perfect so I used my finger to make the tops to look a bit more perfect.)
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg wash ingredients: large egg, milk and salt. Lightly brush the tops of each gougeres with the egg wash and then sprinkle each one with a dash of freshly ground pepper.
6. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Decrease the oven’s heat to 350 degrees F and open the oven so it sits ajar; bake for an additional 10 minutes. (This step will help dry out the gougeres a bit.) Another note: if your gougers are bigger in size than mine, you may need to bake them for more time. Serve warm.
Makes 2 dozen small gourgeres