One thing I like to make ahead for holiday snacking are cheese gougères. If you’re not familiar with gougères, think of them as savoury cream puffs.
We all love cream puffs, right? These are made with the exact same dough (choux paste) but there is hard, sharp cheese, like aged cheddar or Gruyère stirred into the dough at the end. They bake up into golden globes of goodness, which you can stuff with a herbed cream cheese, or you can eat them warm, as is. They are the perfect little bite to serve with cocktails and sparkling wine, and it’s best to make millions as they are sure to disappear faster than you can say Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. If one is not in a partying mood, gougères are also excellent when dunked in soup and stews
I understand that some people may feel intimidated when it comes to making choux paste. The ingredients are very simple, but there is a little bit of technique involved in the process. It’s nothing to get too worked up over though. It mostly comes down to timing, elbow grease and a good wooden spoon.
To start, make sure your eggs are at room temperature. Boil together water, milk, butter and salt. Easy, right? Now dump in a cup of flour, turn the heat down to medium and stir the dough, quite vigorously, for about 2-3 minutes. This is the hardest part, and you may feel like giving up, but don’t. This is an important step in drying out the dough, which will ensure that the eggs are fully absorbed.
When the dough is shiny and smooth, and there is a crust on the bottom of the pot, dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer, or you can use a hand mixer as well. Back in the olden days, people would have used their arms and a wooden spoon, but I’m not that ambitious, or strong. Beat the dough on medium-low speed for 2 minutes so it cools down. Next, beat in each egg, one at a time, until the dough is smooth and slides off the paddle, then stir in some mustard and grated cheese. You could also stir in chopped fresh rosemary, thyme or cracked pepper.
Drop by spoonfuls and bake for about 25 minutes. In the end, you have indecently cheesy gougères, with a crispy exterior, and a soft, almost eggy interior. For those of you planning ahead, scoop out the dough, then freeze the gougères until solid. Transfer to an airtight container, and bake from frozen when the time comes. I guarantee you’ll feel like a total smarty pants, winning at this holiday entertaining thing.