We visited Napa Valley and Sonoma County for the first time in the summer of 2015. It was, without a doubt, one of the best trips ever. From the clean, farmhouse-meets-coastal laid back style of the villa we stayed in, to the gorgeous rolling hills of wine country, to the incredible tasting experiences and outrageous meal pairings, we were in complete heaven. Our whole group swore to return every summer for the rest of our lives! Fast forward to five years later and I’m sad, embarrassed, and kind of laughing, to say that we haven’t returned since that first trip. Life happens, you know?
But we brought pieces of our glorious trip to wine country back home with us, some that still remain today. One of those pieces are these savory, cheesy Gougères. They are one of my favorite things to make when I want to remember that delicious experience of sipping Rose overlooking a sun-drenched vineyard in Napa.
What are Gougères?
Gougères were offered as part of a tiny tasting plate at one of the vineyards we visited. The plate itself was only about 5×5 inches, and on it were a few olives, a slice of fresh fig, a slice of cheese or two and one Gougère. I will never forget the first time I tried one of these incredible little pastries. It was light as air, almost melted in my mouth, and had the intoxicating flavors and aromas of aged Gruyere cheese and earthy herbs. I couldn’t believe I had never tried Gougères before, or even heard of them! In fact, I don’t know many people who have. If you’re one of those people, consider this my highest recommendation to get involved in the world of Gougères, and do it now.
If you haven’t guessed, Gougères are French. The pastry is called a choux pastry, which is what eclairs and creme puffs are made of. But these are savory pastries, so we’re adding cheese and herbs. It’s not a complicated process, but there are steps that must be followed or your pastries will fall flat. You’ve got to freeze them before you bake them, which is perfect because you can make them ahead of time and pop them out of the freezer as needed, in whatever amount you prefer.
You can go with any good Swiss cheese, but I love a cave-aged Gruyere when I make Gougères. The longer the cheese ages, the better. You’ll mix the cheese right into the pastry batter, along with fresh thyme and rosemary. Beyond that, there aren’t many ingredients. Again, it’s more about the method when you’re making Gougères than the ingredients.
Pretty & Party Perfect
To make your Gougères look pretty, use a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip, or whatever tip you like. If you don’t have these things, don’t fret – just drop the batter in spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. They’ll still taste the same.
I just made a big batch of Gougères that I’ll take out of the freezer by the dozen any time I’m serving a cheese board this holiday season. They are a perfect little savory accompaniment to wine, fruit and cheese. And although my view is slightly different, they always transport me back to those beautiful hillside vineyards of Napa Valley. Try making Gougères and let me know if you become as addicted as I am. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 2 cups aged Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 7 eggs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the flour.
Return to medium heat and stir until the batter pulls away from the sides of the saucepan, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the batter to a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, then increase speed to medium and add six eggs one by one. Reserve the last egg for brushing.
Add the grated cheese and herbs and combine well. Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or round tip, or ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe the batter into small rounds onto a ungreased baking sheet and freeze.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove Gougères from freezer and brush with beaten egg. Bake 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake another 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.