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Gougères

Irma R., a novice home cook, turns to F&W's Tina Ujlaki with her kitchen questions. This month, they discuss the best way to make the tasty, airy French cheese puffs called gougères.

Question

Dear Tina,
I had the most amazing gougères at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York City. Are they hard to make?
Gratefully yours, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,
Gougères are simply choux pastry (the dough used for eclairs, cream puffs and profiteroles) flavored with cheese. In Burgundy, they're the classic accompaniment to the local wine cocktail, the Kir (Aligoté wine and crème de cassis). They are indeed delicious!
Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,
I tried making the gougères and they were tasty, but so dense—not the light, airy puffs I was expecting. What did I do wrong?
Your confused friend, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,
Gougères puff up in part because of the magic of the eggs; perhaps you beat your eggs into the dough when it was too hot or didn't mix them in thoroughly. When you begin to stir, the dough does separate into slippery clumps and seems like it will never come together, but eventually it does.
Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,
Another problem! This time, I made the dough correctly, piped it onto two baking sheets and cooked the gougères on the same rack in the oven. Those on one sheet burned and the others came out beautifully. What happened?
Gratefully, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,
I would guess that your oven heats very unevenly, or maybe one of your baking sheets is heavier or sturdier than the other. Unless you have great sheets, I would recommend investing in a pair of Silpats, reusable silicone pan liners that have increased my baking success a thousand percent. You can buy them at kitchenware shops, or for $26 each from Williams-Sonoma (877-812-6235).

People also run into trouble when they use two racks in the oven; the food on the lower rack (the one closest to the heat source) tends to cook more quickly on the bottom, and the food on the top rack cooks faster on the surface. Always switch baking sheets or pans from top to bottom and also from front to back halfway through cooking. This trick will usually compensate for the idiosyncrasies of most conventional ovens.
Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,
When I tried the recipe again, I got distracted and ended up doubling the amount of cheese called for. Undeterred, I spread the dough in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and baked it into an amazing cheese pastry in 25 minutes at 400°. It was perfect topped with ham.
Incredulously yours, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,
It sounds easier than making individual gougères! That's how many recipes are born—happy accidents.
Best, Tina

Published October 2003
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