I love how easy it is to enhance a traditional pate a choux recipe by simply adding grated cheese and pepper to the dough. It's the perfect vehicle for an easy, elegant appetizer.
Technique tip: Brush the tops of the puffs with egg wash before baking for a beautiful, glossy crust. After cooling, you can store in an airtight container or bag and freeze for a month. Gougère dough can be made 4 hours ahead of time and can be baked a few hours before. Just reheat before serving!
Swap options: Substitute half of the water for milk for a softer pastry. Use Parmigiano-Reggiano, Emmental or comté cheese in place of Gruyère.
For the gougères:1.
Preheat oven to 425°F and line a half sheet pan with a silicone baking mat. (You can use parchment, but silicone is best. If you use parchment here, put a little dough in the corners of the sheet pan before placing the paper, this holds the paper in place.)2.
Bring water, salt and butter to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. The fat from the butter should be completely distributed throughout the water rather than just floating on top.3.
Sift or whisk the flours together. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add all the flour at once. Vigorously stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula until all the water is absorbed. Make sure to break up any lumps of flour you notice.4.
After the water is absorbed and the mixture is turning into a dough, return to medium heat and cook the dough for 3-6 minutes, moving it around constantly. I like to smear the dough around and shake it in the pan to make sure everything is cooking evenly. You want to cook it until it starts to smell nutty and coats the bottom of the pan in a little fuzz. Once it looks like a big ball of dough that is holding its shape and will hold your spoon upright, pull it from the heat.5.
Add the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.6.
Turn the speed to low-medium speed and mix for 3-5 minutes to cool the dough down. When the dough is cool to the touch, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. If after you add 3 eggs and the mixture doesn't look glossy and is a little too stiff, add the fourth egg. The amount of eggs can vary and depends on the amount of water that was absorbed and evaporated in the first step of cooking. Then, add the baking soda. The mixture should be pipeable, glossy and should hold a line drawn through it with your finger or spoon.7.
Mix the grated Gruyère and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper into the pate a choux dough.8.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a round pastry tip (alternately, you can use spoons or a plastic bag with a snipped corner).9.
Gently pipe out 1½- to 2-inch mounds, leaving an inch in between each. Lightly dampen your fingers and pat down any peaks on top of the dough. Sprinkle tops of dough with the Parmigiano and remaining pepper.10.
Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes. Bake a little longer if you piped your puffs on the larger size. You want them to be golden, completely inflated, very light and sound hollow when you tap the bottom.11.
Prick the puffs with a toothpick upon removal from the oven to release steam. Let cool completely.
Combine crème fraiche, Dijon and chives in a bowl.
Once cool, cut gougères in half, crosswise. Spread a thin layer of herbed cream on both sides. Top bottom half with a thin slice of ham and a few leaves of arugula, add top half and serve.