Gougeres Variations ❉ Three New French Cheese Puffs

Gougeres | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com

Last year I made a classic version of gougères, French cheese puffs, for our Christmas open house and our guests couldn’t get enough of them. Each tray that came out of the oven disappeared in mere minutes. I had to whisk three of the popular puffs away for a stealth photo shoot for the post I wrote about them (after which they got eaten in short order, and not by me).

Many of our guests hadn’t seen gougères before, and seemed to assume  they were difficult to make. Tempting as it was to let people think I’d gone to French pastry school and then spent hours slaving in the kitchen, I let the secret out: they’re dead easy. Not only that, but these adorable puffs can be frozen unbaked and then heated up just in time for a party, or maybe for an evening with a glass of bubbly and a good book.

Gougeres | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com

We’re having another holiday party this year, and I’m prepared to give our company the hors d’oeuvres they clamour for. Last night I made just over 150 of these puffs, in three variations:

  • the classic gruyere version that I made last year, but with a tablespoon of fresh thyme and some grated nutmeg added, which just goes to show that a small change can make a big difference;
  • a sharp cheddar and parmesan puff with ground mustard and cayenne pepper for a zingy morsel of goodness; and,
  • the one I think will be the biggest hit, a nod to all good things Italian with capicolla and sage accompanying a provolone piquante (very piquante!).

Just goes to show, these little babies aren’t just easy, they’re also versatile. Cheese, choux pastry, some herbs and spices and a bonus ingredient like ham … no wonder gougères fly off the serving tray.

I’m planning to make another batch today of the “kitchen sink” variety. I’ll use up all my leftover cheeses — and maybe a bit of this and that —  and see what happens. It’s life on the wild side around here.

Gougeres | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com

Italian-Style Ham & Cheese Gougeres

I predict this will be the favourite version among our friends this year. The combination of ham and cheese is classic, after all.

You can mix in the eggs and cheese by hand, but I find the stand mixer an excellent tool for this, especially when making multiple batches. Making choux pastry by hand requires vigour and is not for the faint of wrist (like me).

  • 1-1/2 cups shredded provolone piquante
  • 1/2 cup finely diced capicolla (I used mild) or other ham
  • 6 medium sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter

See “Method,” below.

Italian Ham & Cheese Gougere | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com

Spicy Sharp Cheddar Gougeres

These were the very first gougères I ever made, way back in the days of shoulder pads, big hair and tapered pants. I’m pleased that, while fashion was in definite need of improvement, these cheese puffs were the perfect little bite then and remain so today.

  • 1-1/2 cups shredded old white cheddar
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter

See “Method,” below.

Spicy Sharp Cheddar Gougere | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com

Method for Making Gougeres

Pre-heat the oven to 375º. Line your baking pans with Silpats or parchment paper. Each recipe above makes about 50.

Start by preparing your mise en place so that all ingredients are ready and to hand when you need them. Place the cheese, other flavourings (such as ham), and any herbs and spices in a bowl and set aside. Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl. Break the eggs into a measuring cup for ease of pouring and have on standby. Put the water and butter in a medium sauce pan. Now you’re ready to begin the simple process of making gougères.

Over high heat, bring the water and butter to a lively boil. Dump in the flour and salt mixture all at once, and stir with a trusty wooden spoon over medium low heat until the mixture comes together into a pasty ball. A slight crust will form on the bottom of the pan, after which continue stirring for two or three minutes to ensure the paste is sufficiently dried out. It looks a bit like children’s play dough at this point.

Transfer the dough to the mixer bowl, and beat on low with the paddle attachment for a couple of minutes to let the heat dissipate somewhat. If your kitchen is cool, like mine, it’s exciting to see the steam billowing from the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until well incorporated. The mixture will look split when you add each egg and you may wonder if it will come together; don’t despair, it will. Once all the eggs have been added and you’re admiring the lovely smooth mixture you created, it’s time to add the cheese and other flavourings. Stir until well distributed.

I use my tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop to measure these out. You could put the batter into a piping bag, but let’s face it, that’s more work. Absent a small ice cream scoop or a piping bag, just use two spoons to make tablespoon-sized dollops of the dough.

To make right away, place the mounds of dough onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking tray a couple of inches apart. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes, then rotate the trays top to bottom and front to back. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until beautifully golden and crispy. If you tap on a puff with a fingernail they will sound hollow.

One of the wonderful things about gougères is that the dough can be frozen unbaked. In this case, line up the dough balls in close formation but not touching each other on your baking tray. (I was able to get a regiment of 56 of them on my big tray and 40 on a standard-sized cookie sheet.) Once frozen, place them in airtight freezer bags, labelled with the type of gougère and the date. They’ll keep up to two months. Then, when company arrives, just heat up the oven, place the dough balls on the prepared tray and bake four or five minutes longer than usual. Remember, you’re looking for a nicely browned puff that sounds hollow when you tap it.

Could entertaining be any easier?

Gougeres - Last Bite! | © Life Through the Kitchen Window.com


  1. These sure do sound good, Mar, and not at all difficult to prepare. The only problem I foresee is making enough so that at least a few make it out of the kitchen and to my guests waiting in the next room. I can see myself eating them like popcorn. 🙂

    • They are rather popcornish, aren’t they. But given their richness, I think you’ll be able to eat all you want and still have at least a few left for your guests 😊

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