My love for these gougères makes me wonder at the power of form, shape and dimension in influencing our experience of eating… or to put my revelation in other words: bigger is better.
In the end they are what they are – gougères, choux pastry flecked with grated cheese – and the exact same recipe I’ve made multiple times before. But the larger size gives these puffs a generously rustic, scone-like presence. You can hold it in two hands and take what you think is a substantive bite only for it to collapse in a puff of air and bronzed batter and butter and toasted cheese. They are what I imagine scones would be if you rubbed in air in the place of cold butter.
I was inspired by the gougères at Pigeonhole where they’re served massive plus butter and jam. I haven’t had the chance to try theirs, but I was immediately fascinated when I mistook them for scones at first glance.
These gougères are delicious on their own (and that is generally how I end up eating them), but after trying them with some strawberry rhubarb jam I made last summer, I quite enjoyed that too! Another idea: apple butter?
The gougères are best the day of while they’ve retained a contrast between the crisp exterior and a custardy honeycombed interior. It’s not too hard to finish them on the first day though; after all, they are literally half, if not more, air and hence easily inhaled. (Or so I excuse myself after eating half the batch.)
tips to keep your giant gougeres giant
I’ve made several batches of these, and while I still occasionally have a sinker or two, there are a couple of things I’ve picked up on to ensure maximal puff:
- Allow the batter to cool before mixing in the grated cheese to prevent it from melting before hitting the oven
- Resist the temptation to sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top – small gougères can handle it, but these ones tend to sink under even a little bit
- Proper batter consistency – sometimes if I’m making choux pastry where I want it to hold it’s shape, I’ll err on slightly stiffer batter. But I’ve found that if it’s too stiff, the pastry won’t puff as much, so in this case be sure to add the entire 2 large eggs as specified in the recipe.
giant aged cheddar gougères with jam & butter
- 60g water (1/4 cup)
- 60g milk (1/4 cup)
- 57g butter (1/2 a stick)
- good pinch salt
- ground black pepper
- 1-2 tsp picked thyme leaves (fresh) or other herbs if desired (optional)
- 65g whole wheat flour (1/2 cup)
- 2 eggs
- 50g aged white cheddar, coarsely grated
to serve (optional!)
- salted butter
- jam of choice
Preheat the oven to 400F.
In a saucepan, warm the water, milk, salt and butter until the butter is fully melted. Bring to a boil, add the flour and quickly mix in with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and continue to cook the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pastry from the heat and let cool a bit before adding the eggs one at a time, beaten into the pastry most easily with the aid of a wire whisk. The dough should now be shiny, but not fluid. If still quite hot, let cool until room temperature, and mix in the herbs, some ground black pepper, followed by the grated cheese. I’ve found that the gougères don’t puff as well if the cheese melts when mixed into the hot dough, so let it cool!
Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or no tip is fine too!). Pipe six mounds of pastry, around 3-4 tbsp in size (or about 6cm in diameter by 2-3cm in height) evenly spaced on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of coarse salt. While it’s tempting to sprinkle these with grated cheese, I’ve found it impedes their rise and causes a bit of collapse. Great for small gougères, not so great for giant gougères.
Bake for around 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown. If they’re browning relatively evenly, I would not bother rotating the tray. If they’re browning very unevenly, wait until a a brown crust is formed (at least around 25 minutes) before rotating them near the end to minimize risk of collapse.
As soon as you can handle them, cut a slit in the bottom of each puff to let the steam release and let cool on a wire rack.
Best still slightly warm on their own, or with salted butter and jam.