How To Make
Preheat the oven to 425º. Prepare your mis-en-place by gathering and measuring all your ingredients.
In the saucepan add butter, water, salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a light boil then turn heat to medium and add the flour all at once.
Using your favorite wooden spoon (I use one from my grandmother that has a flat edge rather than rounded, more like a wooden spatula, so I can get into the 90º corner), stir with vigor until the mixture pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Lower the heat and continue to break up and stir the mixture for another two minutes. You are letting out some of the moisture and removing some of the “uncooked” character of the flour.
Remove from heat and let cool five minutes.
Using the wire whisk add one egg at a time to the mixture in the saucepan and fully incorporate. Using the silicone spatula blend in the grated cheese.
Note on cheese addition: traditionally gougères are made with Gruyère. This will produce a creamier puff because of the fat content. I have also used Parmesan to make a drier puff. Jacques Pépin has a version with a mixture of both, dusting the Parmesan on the exterior before baking. Alice Waters has a variation from her friend in Bandol that uses chopped anchovies in place of the cheese (fat replaces fat). It is up to you, experiment with what you like.
Line two sheet pans with Silpat or parchment.
When I added gougères to my regular repertoire I sometimes had “extra” and needed a second sheet. Now I have a rhythm, possibly muscle memory akin to playing piano, to get the entire mixture onto one sheet in a nice repeating pattern, alternating and interlocking rows of four and five gougères (looks nice coming out of the oven).
Insert tip into the pastry bag and fill your pastry bag with the mixture and pipe small mounds, shy of a tablespoon, one inch apart.
I use a star tip to give ridges to the puffs for extra texture with the increased surface area. If you don’t have a pastry bag you can spoon them onto the sheet, you’ll need two sheets for this.
Bake at 425º for 10 minutes. This will set a crisp exterior.
Lower the temperature to 350º for an additional 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. You are looking for a golden exterior. Remove from oven when done.
You can take a knife and poke the top to let out steam. This will keep them crisp and help if you need to re-heat.
Serve now or keep in your pie cabinet and re-heat at 350º for five minutes, just when your guests arrive.
If I have the time, I create an egg wash by beating one egg and a tablespoon water. I apply to the exterior of each with a pastry brush before the initial bake.
If I want extra salt I sprinkle Maldon Salt before going into the oven, with or without the egg wash.
A dusting of Paprika can be festive.