Makes about 48 small puffs

Gougère are delicious, addictive, crispy, creamy, chewy cheese puffs and best served warm. They are made with a base dough known as pâte à choux, the classic French dough that is used for cream puffs. 

2 cups milk
½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
2 tsp. salt
dash white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
7-8 large eggs
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, finely diced
6 oz. ham, finely diced (optional)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary or fresh thyme (optional)

Have all indredients pre-measured and prepared. Crack 5 of the 8 eggs but do not beat. Heat oven to 375˚. Heat the milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just until it comes to a gentle boil. Add the butter, salt and a dash of pepper.  Bring to a rolling boil and off the heat, add the flour all at once.  Stir like crazy and over low heat, using a wooden spoon, cook the pastry until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. It will be shiny and smooth. 

Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the 5 eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next. (If you have 5 unbeaten eggs in a bowl and you pour very slowly, one will separate and plop out at a time.)

Continue with the remaining 3 eggs, adding one at a time. You may need 7, you may need 8. The dough should be thick enough to hold its shape when plopped on a cookie sheet but not as think as chocolate chip cookie dough.  

When the pastry is shiny and smooth, mix in the cheese and ham.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. With a spoon, scoop the dough in ping-pong ball shapes or smaller. With a your finger, push them off the spoon. 

Leave room around each gougère. They will grow.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until crispy and lightly browned all the way around not just on top. Serve ASAP. The dough can be made ahead 3 to 4 hours but should not be refrigerated. Lightly butter a piece of wax paper and press it on to the the dough to keep a crust from forming. 

Shape and bake just before serving.

Community Cuisine, Barbie Aknin