These are not sweet. Don’t get your hopes too high.
Viens ici, mon petit chou ! No, no, not at all. Wrong story, wrong word.
I was recently admiring the lovely cream puffs made by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice. Looking at this beautiful puff pastry of hers reminded me that I used to make des petits choux quite often, although more in the savoury version as my tooth is more savoury than sweet -although I would totally indulge in Chubby Hubby‘s profiteroles. Don’t they look amazing?
I used to love to make my own little choux, my gougères. Both Ivonne and Gerald from Foodite inspired and convinced me it was time to turn my attention to this lost habit. How do I know whether I can still make gougères if I don’t make them anymore? I decided it was the perfect time to test whether I had lost my hand at making those little choux!
“Mon petit chou, alors!”
This happened in my quest to make gougères.
While at Sur la Table to make a very important purchase for the gougères making, and in view of my ignorance as to how to say decorating bag and decorating tip, I asked a shop assistant the following question :
“- Excuse me, I am looking for a bag to make choux. Do you have any?”
She looked at me with big round eyes. “- Excuse me?”
Well, you see, I really said choux, with the real French accent: “choux” ([∫u])
“- Well, you know, to make choux, choux like in profiteroles“.
“- Proofiteeroll? Ah yes! A decorating bag! So you say chou like in My p’titee chou???”
“- Ah non non! Yes, enfin, well, you pronounce the word the same way, but there are two different things!!! ”
A bit of history about the origin of the word chou(x).
Extract from The Penguin Companion to Food.
The term is of long standing. A street cry in the 16th century was “Choux, petits choux, tout chauds.” Cotgrave (1611) in his French-English dictionary gave the term as “tichous” and translated this as “Little cakes mades of egges and flower (sic), with a little butter (and sometimes cheese among) eaten ordinarily with sugar and Rosewater”. The author of the Thrésor de santé (1607) regarded cheese, and cheese of a certain kind not just any cheese, as obligatory rather than optional.
My gougères discovery
Like many young students willing to get good pocket money quickly, I did les vendanges in early fall for a few years. When I was about 20, I drove to the Champagne area close to my native Lorraine and worked at the René Jolly vineyard to pick grapes to make champagne. Anyone who has done this kind of adventure can speak about this type of work. It is hard, as it requires a lot of physical back strength but in the end, it is totally rewarding (yes, yes ,you drink champagne often, so this is a real good plan, pickers and tasters!) Imagine a room full of slap happy people at night, exhausted after a day in the fields, eating ferociously the meal prepared for them. Like in many of those places, les vendanges usually last for 2 full weeks (in my case it was 10 days), without a break, and you usually stay on the vineyard with full board, because of course, the grapes do not wait, and you need to be there to take good care of them ! Typical of me, while there, I started wandering around in the kitchen and soon enough, was hired to help as the cook assistant. The owner realized I had a strong interest in food, and since they needed help in the kitchen to feed all those famished mouths, I was appointed. No more back pain!
This vineyard is family owned like many, de père en fils, and I became very quickly a good friend of the grand-mother’s. She loved to tell me about her cooking tricks and recipes, and I just loved to listen to her. Amongst her secrets, there was a recipe for gougères, which she passed to me before I left on my way back to Lorraine, with my pockets full of hardly earned pocket money (ok, I confess, it was easier to be in the kitchen, especially when you are tall like me).
Gougères are made following the same steps for the preparation of little choux. Instead of the sweet flavour though, you have savoury since the sugar added to choux is replaced by cheese, and any other flavor you like. Some gougères have ham, smoked salmon, fresh goat cheese or blue cheese, nuts and seeds. You can totally be creative. It is the base that stays pretty much the same, any additions will vary according to your preferences. The dough is created by combining butter, water and salt first, then by adding the flour at once, then the eggs. The consistency of the pastry is sticky, like a thick paste.
I am suggesting here a series with basil/parsley and fennel seeds. You usually serve them as part of the apéritif, before a meal as an appetizer. They are typical of the food eaten during wine-tasting events and are usually known as amuse-bouche.
So please, “amusez votre bouche” (Please your mouth!)
- 4 eggs + 1 extra egg yolk
- 125 g flour
- 65 g butter
- 250 ml water (1 cup)
- Pinch of salt
- Fennel or cumin seeds
- 100 g cheese (I used pecorino here but you can use gruyère, comté, gouda or cheddar)
- 1 tbsp fresh basil or parsley
- Place the butter, salt and water in a pot and after the butter is melted, bring to a boil.
- When this is done, keep your pot on the heat and add the flour at once, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. The dough should be very elastic and detach from the pot.
- Away from heat, add the first 2 eggs at once and mix very quickly, then add the last 2, one after the other. The dough should be sticky, pastelike.
- Chop the herbs and grate the cheese.
- Separate your dough batch in 2 halves and add half of the cheese and fennel seeds to one, the herbs and cheese to the other.
- Preheat your oven at 400 F (200 C)
- With 2 small teaspoons, place small amounts of dough on an oiled baking sheet, making sure you keep them sufficiently apart as your choux will rise (or use your decorating bag for more original shapes).
- Brush some egg yolk on each choux.
- Place in oven to bake for about 25 mns, or until golden. Half way through the completion of the baking time, open your oven a little. This way, your gougères will remain airy and light adn will not fall (which could happen).
- Take out and serve immediately or keep for later uses. Those gougères are a good idea to cook in advance and freeze, for times when you have spontaneous guests.
I was pleased to see that I had not lost my hand at making them.
First of all, I am honoured that you made these gougeres and posted this lovely bit of writing! Thank you so much.
Secondly, I absolutely love the story about the vineyard that you worked at. It reminded me of the book by Susan Hermann Loomis “On Rue Tatin”, which talks about so many of the family-owned farms and vineyards in France.
And now for the gougeres … mon dieu! The picture is absolutely gorgeous. You are a very, very talented photographer!!!
And they look delicious. I had never thought to add cheese. And the idea of putting some sort of spread inside with smoked salmon, etc. well … I must try this!
I say this with all honesty, Béa, you are a very talented cook and an inspiration!
Thank you again for these beautiful little gifts which I will enjoy on this cold Toronto day …
Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t made these in years and had forgotten all about them. Thanks for the delicious reminder! (And I loved reading about your vineyard experience.) : )
magnifique, béa, ça me fait très très envie! et grégoire en a réclamé aujourd’hui… qu’est-ce qu’il réclame ce grégoire!
I like eat gougères with soup …
Thanks for sharing a wonderful experience. I never would have known about gourgeres. This sounds like a very nice compliment to soups or just on its own.
Having been fortunate enough to sample Ivonne’s cream puffs on a number of occasions, I can attest to her talent with choux pastry. How wonderful that she inspired you to write this post on gougeres, as now I have another wonderful recipe to try! I particularly love the idea of serving these at wine-tasting events … I’m currently taking a wine course and was thinking of hosting a little tasting chez moi … now I know what I’ll serve! Merci!
What a brilliant idea!
Bea bonjour Boston…this site brings me closer to France inspite the fact you are on the other side of the pond.
The last time I remember we (M the swiss man) and I did a choux was when we were in Oslo. March or April last year.
Gougeres I think I had them in Monaco.. long time too. I love fennel the aroma the scent.
Anyway I love the vineyard story like most of yr readers here.
I must go to a food exhibition one german food distributor sent us an invite and must dash
I cant wait ti try different wurst.
I love the way you say choux to the lady hahaha
Great post Bea! What an interesting experience to be able to work on a Champagne vineyard and pick grapes!
Wow, I have never tried to make my choux savory, I will have to try it out. You think it would be a little over the top to build it into a pyramid like they do for weddings? hahaha.
Thanks all for your nice comments.
I really think the cool thing about gougères is that you can really make some ahead of time. Freeze and then et voilà!
Funny Fabienne, I also had mine yesterday with soup!
Ah Flo, Gregoire, c’est vrai, il est coquin et gourmand, comme sa maman? 😉
Thanks farmgirl, yes nothing better than a great vineyard experience, I would still do them now!
Ivonne, you are too cute! I am really just average, really, but enjoy doing it!
Katy, yes funny idea, you should surprise them all with it!
I was conceived during les vendages….in Languedoc where I live now with my French husband, how circular is life? I love your recipes and will get to choux-ing right now…I have been meaning to make some for awhile now and I have a big assortment of piping bags that I found at the market. Yum and merci!
a great hit at our cheese and wine soiree 🙂
I have been looking for a traditional recipe for Beignets Souffle (savoury) and came across your recipe for Gougeres. My friends are taking over a Pub/Restaurant and we are looking for ideas to put on the Menu. Many years ago my Husband and I had a French Restaurant in Wales and one of the most popular Starters was our Beignets Souffles with Tomato Coulis – wonderful memories, I can still taste the little puff pastry balls now!!! I realise there is a slight difference between Beignets & Gougeres as the Beignets were deep fried and not baked in the oven but I am sure the end result will be fantastic. Merci Bien!!!
Just a few words to thank you for this brilliant and simple recipe ! Je suis française et j’appréhendais de m’attaquer aux gougères, tout le monde semble avoir sa technique et tout le monde s’accorde pour dire qu’elle est loin d’être infaillible !
Mais j’ai suivi la tienne à la lettre et ca a été un succès.
Thanks again, delicious and a big hit with my guests !
Instead of trawling through my books for a choux/gougere recipe I reached for my search engine and found you, your story and wonderful looking recipe. Can’t wait to try it.
Good idea for bridge Christmas Party too.