Kamini Pather reveals 8 secrets to making gougères like the French
The generosity of Burgundy takes the shape of a golf ball sized mouthful of choux (shoo) pastry flavoured with the sweet earthiness of Gruyere – a mild, hard cheese named after the Swiss town, which is separated from France by the very small area, also of cheesy fame, Comte. Before 2001, when Gruyere gained its Swiss appellation of origin, the French tried to lay claim on this fine fromage. And who wouldn’t!
After a direct fight from Cape Town to Dubai and then on to Lyon in a minibus with 5 other journalists, we meandered through the French countryside. Lush with neatly arranged rows of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that studded the rolling hills and waist-height stone walls.
The first stops were accompanied by some chilled Chardonnays served at Louis Latour and Chateau de Chamirey. Both estates showcase the terroir-specific minerality (think about the smell and taste of grey stone or gravel in Winter after the rain) accompanied by balanced but spiky levels of acidity that darted on the tongue.
Joost Heymeijer, Senior Vice President of Catering at Emirates airline reveals, “We look for wines with good acidity, which tends to flatten at altitude and make for a more balanced wine in the air. We also like to have wines with quite strong characteristics as they show better.” With this in mind, the trip revolved around tasting some of the world’s Grand Cru (the oldest and best in France).
Two days in Burgundy revealed the enviable finesse of the French country lifestyle. Whether you’re the Marquis or a peasant helping with the annual harvest “being French is about stopping your day to go home for lunch but I’d only drink one glass of wine,” says Amaury Devillard of Chateau de Chamirey.
So it was not surprised that when I landed back in South Africa I harboured an all-consuming need for the taste of gougères pulled straight out of the oven and placed within arm’s reach. It’s a simplistic recipe made easier by Micheal Rualman’s ratio – equal parts water and eggs with half as much flour and butter. Only a fool would assume this to be an easy recipe but with these tips below, if you master it once, you’ll hit the gougère on the head every single time.
A few tips for the perfect gougères:
1. Measure ingredients by weight and not volume.
2. Use large, fresh eggs. They weigh around 50g which makes the multiplication a cinch.
3. Sift the flour. You could even go so far as double sifting – this recipe is all about lightness of being.
4. There are two trains of thoughts when it comes to the baking temperature – 250°C for 20-25 mins or 250°C for 5 mins and then 180°C for another 20 mins. I used the latter, it creates the crispest shell and keeps the centre gooey, which is half the fun.
5. Whisk each egg separately before adding it into the mixture. Depending on the humidity of the air, you may not need all the eggs. (I demonstrated these at the Good Food and Wine Show in Durban and only used 3 eggs instead of the 4 I usually use in Cape Town).
6. Spritzing the pan with some water or tossing some into the bottom of the oven when you put the buns in will make sure that the moisture is retained.
7. Beat the dough until it is the same texture of béchamel sauce. You need to awaken the gluten so that the pastry raises and holds its shape.
8. When piping, use a round nozzle and pipe a singular dollop (and not concentric circles) to a point.
Recipe (makes 12 medium sized gougères)
50g unsalted butter
50g cake flour, sifted
100g egg – ±2 large eggs
30g gruyere cheese, grated
pinch of salt
Heat oven to 250°C. In a pot, melt the butter into the water. When the liquid is steaming, add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps. Add in one, whisked egg at a time until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot (important sign of done-ness). Add the cheese and the salt. Continue to beat the dough until the dough is shiny, thick and spreadable.
Grease and spray the tray with a mist of water before spooning the dough into a pipping bag (you could use a spoon to create the shape of the gougère but my OCD won’t stand for it). Pipe the dough downward with a flick at the end leaving about a cm of space between each mound of dough. Using a light finger with a wet tip, pat down any flicked tail left by the piping bag.
Baked for 5 mins on 250°C and then drop the temperature to 180°C and baked for another ± 20 mins until they’re gold and ready to satisfy your most gluttonous self.
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