Ale and Cheddar Gougères

Autumn, Savory Recipes • 28 Oct 2012

Despite a few days of thick, humid air; a cool moisture that sticks to your skin and penetrates your clothing, leaving behind a clammy dampness, I feel like baking.  A storm is brewing in the Northeast and the first waves of humidity are evident in the dew droplets peppering our windows and in the suddenly frizzy curls atop my head.

My poor oven cries out to me, conspicuous neglect apparent in its glossy angles and curves. Oven season has officially commenced and I’ve been showering my stovetop and crockpot with all of my tender affection.  I don’t want to risk cultivating an oppressively muggy environment but upon culling a freshly-baked batch of steaming gougères from the oven, all bets are off, the air quality now a moot point. 

Gougères are sexy; a crisp, golden shell crackles between the teeth, giving way to a visible trail of wispy, feathery steam. A titillating center reveals a puff of eggy air and a light buttery web of silken dough. Subtly burning the tip of the nose, the alluring heat of a freshly baked gougère creates laughter, excitement and desire.  The cheesiness is addictive, the saltiness obsessive. A few ephemeral bites and the whole batch is gone.

Traditional gougères are pâte à choux (cream puff pastry) made with milk or water and cheese, most often Gruyere. I make them with dark, nutty ale. The yeasty, smooth flavor marries well with a hard, dry cheese like cave-aged cheddar. I like malty Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, which perfectly embraces crumbly Prairie Breeze cheddar, a slightly sweet, delicately nutty and flamboyantly sharp cheese. Using half whole wheat flour and half white flour yields a decadent but still light puff.

Gougères are heavily dependent on technique, though I promise they are not difficult to make. They key is to form a unified ball when working the dough in the pan, allowing it to become matte and slightly dry. When incorporating the eggs, the ball will first become gelatinous and then viscous. Beat the eggs vigorously, one by one, to yield shiny, smooth dough.

Adding cheese to the yeasty, malty mix is almost too provocative. I’m not sure I can wait I extricate the sultry puffs from my steamy oven.  My fingers must wait to grab, my tongue must wait to taste. Patience is a virtue. And gougères are well worth the brief wait.

Ale and Cheddar Gougères

1 cup Brown Ale (such as Brooklyn Brown, Samuel Smith Nut Brown or Shipyard Brown)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 5 ounces) dry or aged cheddar (I used Prairie Breeze)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Bring the ale, butter and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high-heat. Turn down the heat to medium and add all-purpose and wheat flours, dry mustard and pepper and stir vigorously until the dough forms a smooth ball.

3. Remove the pan from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release heat so the eggs won’t cook when added.

4. Add each egg, one at a time, stirring thoroughly and quickly with a whisk. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.

5. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and mix well. Scoop dough onto baking sheet in heaping tablespoonfuls, about 1 1/2 apart. Otherwise, scoop the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip.

6. Sprinkle puffs with remaining cheese and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 15 minutes so they can dry out.

7. Remove gougères from oven when golden and puffed. Pierce each puff with a sharp knife to let out the steam. Serve immediately.

Yield: About 2 1/2 dozen 2-3 inch gougères.

One Response

  1. Stephanie

    These look amazing!  And perfect for a rainy, chilly day like today!

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