Make-Ahead Gougeres for an Easy but Elegant Brunch  Recipe
Make-Ahead Gougeres for an Easy but Elegant Brunch

By Emma Christensen

Crispy on the outside and almost custardy around their hollow middles, gougeres have a refined elegance that makes them perfect for Easter dinner. What isn't so perfect is their rather labor-intensive preparation, added to the fact that these cheese puffs are best when delivered straight from the oven to the table. But here is where a freezer comes in handy.

However, this brilliant tip comes from Dorie Greenspan in her book "Around My French Table." She writes, "Although you must spoon out the puffs as soon as the dough is made, the little puffs can be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer."

This means that we can do all the upfront labor of making the gougeres the night, or even the week, before the dinner and then simply bake them off just before guests arrive. To make things even easier, we can freeze the gougeres directly on the sheet pan where they will be baked. No need to defrost -- both the sheet pan and the frozen puffs can go right into the hot oven.

Gougeres are fantastic on their own as an appetizer or side dish with dinner. For a light lunch or dinner buffet, also try stuffing gougeres with ham and salad greens to make little sandwich bites. Either way, light and airy gougeres are an immensely satisfying treat to have on any table, especially considering that making them ahead is so easy.

Gougeres Recipe

Gougeres can be baked immediately after shaping without freezing or be kept frozen for up to three months.

Makes roughly 2 dozen

1 cup (8 ounces) water

8 tablespoons (4 ounces/1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional)

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) grated cheese, such as gruyere or cheddar

Combine the water, butter, salt and mustard (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Once all the butter has melted, remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the mixture comes together and resembles mashed potatoes.

Return the pan to medium-low heat and stir for 3-5 minutes to dry out the dough. The dough is ready when it glistens and is thick enough to hold a spoon upright. Some starch buildup on the bottom of the pan is normal.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (The following steps can also be done with a hand mixer or by hand with a stiff spatula.) Beat the dough on a medium-low speed for one minute until it stops steaming and is just warm to the touch.

Continue beating and add the egg in four additions. Wait for each addition to be absorbed and for the dough to smooth out before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed between additions. In the end, the dough should come together in a very smooth batter. Beat in the cheese.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto sheet pans lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Space them at least an inch apart. Freeze the dough directly on the sheet pans overnight. (For longer freezer storage, the gougeres can be transferred to another container once frozen.)

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 450 F. Leave the gougeres in the freezer.

Place the sheet pans with the gougeres directly into the hot oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350 F. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking. The finished gougeres will be puffed, deep golden-brown, and dry to the touch.

Transfer the sheet pan to a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature. Leftovers will lose their crispness, but will keep in a container for several days.

Stuffed Gougeres Sandwich Recipe

Makes roughly 2 dozen small sandwiches

1 recipe gougeres (above)

1/2 pound very thinly sliced deli ham

1 head curly lettuce

Prepare the gougeres as directed. Split each slice of ham in two and tear the lettuce into small pieces. Use a paring knife to trim a cap off of each gougere. Stuff the inside with a bit of lettuce and a folded piece of ham. Set the cap on top and serve.

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Recipes: "Make-Ahead Gougeres for an Easy but Elegant Brunch "

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