French Laundry’s Gougeres

One of my favorite bites from my French Laundry experience were the gruyère cheese gougères. Gougère is a French cheese pastry puff. The ones we were served at TFL were so tiny, that we all left wanting more.

I was delighted when I saw that the new Bouchon Bakery book includes the recipe for the gougeres served at The French Laundry. I’ve made gougeres before and they weren’t too hard, but they also weren’t as good as the one I had at TFL.

Interestingly, the recipe published in the Bouchon Bakery book is not the same recipe published in the older French Laundry cook book. I guess maybe Thomas Keller has changed his formula.

As with all Thomas Keller recipes, his version of gougeres was a little more complicated and I had to tweak some of the steps.

For instance, TK’s recipe requires you to freeze them for four hours first. I didn’t have the patience. While I did freeze some which can be used for later (that’s apparently how they do it at TFL, make a bunch, freeze, and unfreeze when needed), I also tried making some right away and that worked out just fine.

Another thing is that Keller makes his gougeres in a special mold. I had no idea where the heck I was going to find such a mold and I didn’t want to invest in one that had such a limited purpose, so I just did them freehand, which is how they are usually done in other recipes I’ve tried. However, when you pipe them freehand, they usually have a little tip on top. Since TK uses a mold, his doesn’t have that tip. So to get mine to look like his, I actually pressed down with my finger on each one to get rid of the little tip so they would resembles the perfect ball shaped gougeres served at TFL.

These came out really really good. They weren’t as perfect as the ones I had at TFL but I think it’s because Thomas Keller states in the Bouchon Bakery book that they usually will pipe the gougeres with a rich cheese sauce before serving them. So mine were missing that extra cream sauce.

I’m still happy with how they turned out and since you can freeze them, I now can make a lot and just defrost them whenever I’m craving some. The recipe below is slightly modified in the instructions to include the steps where I deviated from the original.

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The French Laundry's Gougeres

Ingredients:

1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp water
2.2 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 + 1/8 tsp kosher salt
0.3 grams freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tsbp all purpose flour
150 grams eggs
scant 1 cup aged shredded gruyere cheese

Directions:

Combine the water, butter, salt, pepper in a medium saucepan, place over medium heat and stir until butter is melted. Once the butter has melted, increase heat to medium-high and then bring to a simmer, then remove pan from the heat, with a wooden spoon, stir in all the flour.

Continue to stir for 1 1/2 minutes until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium-high heat and stir rapidly for 1 minute, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean. The dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.

Immediately transfer the dough to a mixer bowl and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin to add the eggs, 50 grams at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue adding the eggs, mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl pulled with the paddle but immediately grabs back on again.

Increase speed to medium for 15 seconds to ensure that all the eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer. When the dough is lifted, it should form a bird's peak- it should hold it's shape and turn down on itself but not break off. Add the cheese and pulse to incorporate. (I don't have a pulse on my mixer, so I pour the entire batter into my Blentec blender and pressed pulse so that the cheese actually got pulsed in.

Put batter into pastry bag. At this point, TK tells you to pipe into molds but I didn't have molds. Instead, I piped little free form balls, slightly less than 1 inch in diameter since he makes his so small. I piped them onto a baking sheet, spread about 1 1/2 inches apart. When I finished piping, I went back and used my finger to push down and get rid of the little tip that is left on top of each one from the piping.

Freeze the gougeres for about four hours until firm. I also baked some right away. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown if you are baking immediately.

If you are baking from frozen: Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with frozen gougeres, leaving about 1 inch between them. Spray lightly with water. Place in the oven, immediately lower temperature to 350F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.