Gougères are one of my favorite party tricks. A cheese puff made from the French pastry dough pâte à choux, these little bites are incredibly easy to eat. Mastering their preparation takes some know-how and some practice. To get you closer to puff perfection, here are five common gougères-making mistakes to avoid.
1. Not cooking the paste long enough.
The first step in making the pâte à choux for gougères is cooking water, butter, and flour to form a thick paste. You want to make sure that plenty of the moisture is cooked out in the dough so that the paste can readily absorb the eggs.
Try this: Much like making a roux, the paste for gougères should look dry and smell a little nutty. The paste will have a sort of grainy appearance similar to mashed potatoes.
2. Adding too many eggs.
The secret to gougères' puff is the addition of eggs, but here's the thing — too many eggs and the dough will be too wet to properly puff. Whats more, the number of eggs your dough will need varies depending on the flour you use, how long you cooked the paste, and the weather (seriously! Mine always take less egg on rainy days).
Know when to stop: First, whisk all the eggs together (this makes it easier to add just half an egg if you need to). Add the eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl before the next batch, and checking for doneness. If you scoop up a little bit with your spatula and let it slide back into the bowl, it should leave behind a little "V" of dough on the spatula.
3. Adding too much cheese.
Yes, these are known as cheese puffs and they can take a considerable amount of cheese, but too much cheese (and fat) will give you cheesy pancakes and not cheese puffs.
Use the right cheese: Use the recipe as a guideline for how much cheese to use, but know that dry cheeses puff best. You can use nearly any hard or semi-soft cheese for making gougères from scratch, but I prefer a drier cheese like Parmesan, Asiago, or Manchego. With less moisture to drive out during baking, gougères made with these cheeses puff just a little bit better in the oven, making for crispier gougères.
4. Piping the gougeres too close together.
It is super tempting to squeeze as many gougères together as possible, but once puffed their proximity to each other can cause disaster (the puffs can stick together and prevent each other from expanding).
Give them their space: Leave an inch around all sides of your gougères for baking.
5. Starting in a cool oven.
Gougères start in a hot oven so they can rapidly puff, and then the oven temperature is reduced. Having tried and failed to cook gougères at the lower oven temperature, I can attest to their need for a hot start.
Try this: Heat the oven to 450°F and bake the gougères at this temperature for five minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350°F until they are golden, light, and puffy.