We turned to our Recipe Editor, Sharron Wood, who has years of experience editing (and taste-testing!) thousands of our recipes featured in our catalogues, cookbooks, on our website, and on our blog. An avid entertainer and craft cocktail maven, she shares her go-to appetizer that she serves at nearly every party she hosts out of her San Francisco apartment. Read on to learn why!
Whenever I host a cocktail party (which is to say, at least once or twice a month), I mostly stick to room-temperature apps. Think cheese plates, spiced nuts and homemade hummus with a plate piled high with colorful veggies. Because, let’s face it: No one has time to be standing over a deep-fryer or forming meatballs in the precious final moments before the guests arrive. But I make an exception for my make-ahead secret weapon that never fails to have my guests gushing. Enter: the glamorously named but oh-so-easy to make gougères (which you can also just call cheesy puff pastries too).
After the unmistakable smell of buttery, cheesy goodness in the oven draws everyone to the kitchen to find out what’s going on, I pull out a baking sheet (or two) of these little puff pastries to oohs and aahs that are completely out of proportion to how much time they took to put together.
A traditional French appetizer that’s especially popular in Burgundy, gougères are made from choux pastry, which is nothing more than water, butter, flour and eggs cooked together to make a stiff dough. The addition of cheese—traditionally Gruyère, but there’s no need to be a stickler about it—is what differentiates gougères from other types of choux pastry, which is also used to make éclairs and profiteroles.
4 REASONS TO MAKE THEM
1. You Can Make Them in Advance
You can make them advance—like, way in advance—and store them, uncooked, in your freezer. Just pipe or spoon the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze the gougères for an hour or two, until they’re firm, before putting them in a sealable plastic bag. They will keep in the freezer for up to a couple of months before cooking them, so you can stock your freezer before the invitations for the party even go out.
2. They Take Almost No Time to Make
Take your plastic bag of gougères out of the freezer, toss some on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and throw them in the oven for about 22 minutes. Just remember to set an alarm so that you don’t get into a conversation with one of your guests and forget to take them out!
Did I mention that they make your kitchen smell amazing when they’re baking during the party? They’re a hit before they even come out of the oven.
3. They’re Perfectly Bite-Sized
They’re easy to eat in one or two bites using your fingers—no need to worry about passing plates or silverware. Just a napkin will do.
4. They’re versatile—and thrifty!
Although most gougères recipes call for the traditional Gruyère cheese, almost any type of firm or semifirm cheese—or a mixture of them—will do. Every time I make gougères, I combine all the random odds and ends of cheeses in my refrigerator that need to be used up, usually Parmesan, pecorino romano, or aged cheddar or Gouda. But you do you. Mimolette makes the little puffs turn a pretty orange color, and aged Manchego puts a Spanish spin on the French pastries. I have yet to find a cheese that makes bad gougères. My only tip: Just stay away from cheese that are too soft to grate.
So next time you have a free hour, make a batch—or, better, two or three batches—and stash them in your freezer. The next time you host a cocktail party or a friend stops by for a glass of wine, your future self will thank you.