Puffy Cheese Pillows: How to Cook, Serve, and Savor Gougères
The aroma of fresh baking, the taste of tendy, salty cheese, and a crispy shell enveloping a light, airy dough all describe my favourite festive bite: a savoury choux pastry (pâte à choux). You've experienced this yummy, versatile pastry if you've ever nibbled on a cream puff , profiterole, or chouquette. Meet their savoury cousin, a delicious treat known as a gougère. Originating from Burgundy, it's served warm with apéritifs, the French tradition of a before-dinner drink to stimulate one's appetite. Blended with cheese and herbs, or served with a cheese platter, these puff s are deceptively light and are sure to impress.
I was introduced to gougères at San Francisco's Tartine Bakery. Famished after a 45-minute wait, I spied a golden puff of pastry the size of my fist. The gooey cinnamon bun I had been holding swiftly took second fiddle as we ordered up two gougères. We tore into those crispy, flaky, cheese pastries and were hooked; you know, one of those OMG moments.
Virtually the same pastry and process as cream puff s, you simply omit the sugar and add your choice of savoury ingredients. Classic French gougères are flavoured with Gruyère cheese; lardons and herbs are also common.
In addition to the classics, David Introligator of Vancouver's French Made Baking offers a sun-dried tomato and basil or cilantro and cumin option (by special order, 2 dozen minimum). And at Bel Café, David Hawksworth's generous cheddar gougère accompanies his roasted tomato soup – but unfortunately, no to-go gougères yet (I'm working on it).
You'll want to avoid adding any ingredients with a high moisture content. If you insist on wet additions – like smoky mushrooms in a cream sauce – slice open the partially cooled gougères and add the filling to the centre just before serving.
The traditional French apéritif to accompany these tasty nuggets is Kir (Aligoté white wine with a splash of crème de cassis) or Kir Royale, swapping champagne for white wine. The holidays call for sparkle, therefore I'd suggest a local interpretation of Kir Royale. Vancouver sommelier Heather Mitchell recommends Summerhill Cipes Brut with Okanagan Spirits Blackcurrant Liqueur.
Keep it elegant by serving an apéritif and petite puffs to welcome guests, and save the meal-sized option for New Year's brunch or for late-night snacking.
Julie Marr assisted with the styling; follow her adventures at kitchenculinaire.com
Pâte à choux, or choux pastry, translates to cabbage pastry en français because the baked pastry resembles cabbage leaves.