I guess the Holidays are the time for gougères, since 101 Cookbooks just posted a recipe a few days ago, and a classic one from David Lebovitz was posted on New Year's Day a few years ago... which makes sense since these French "cheese puffs" are a pretty great thing to munch on with a glass of wine while you hang out with family and friends. I used Dorie Greenspan's recipe from Around My French Table (can be found on Epicurious here) since I thought it a little simpler for my first attempt at pâte à choux: "a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré cake, Indonesian kue sus, and gougères."
I was a little scared, I admit, since Anna was off teaching and she's my go to resource for any thing pastry related (having worked in a bakery and generally being more inclined towards this type of cooking than me)... though, truth be told, being a vegan for much of her life means we were probably on equal footing here anyway. However, despite my fear, it wasn't really that hard... well mixing in five eggs by hand was a little tiring... but they tasted great and my poofs stayed puffed. In this regard, David Lebovitz gives the following advice:
The most common problem folks have with pâte à choux, or cream puff dough, is de[f]ated puffs. The usual causes are too much liquid (eggs), or underbaking. Make sure to use large eggs, not extra-large or jumbo, and use a dry, aged cheese, if possible. And bake the puffs until they’re completely browned up the sides so they don’t sink when cooling.Of course the water is also an important part of why it puffs up in the first place. One interesting thing about hand vs. mechanical mixing is that Ruhlman says here that mechanically mixed pâte à choux will puff up higher... though I was by no means disappointed by the airiness of texture I achieved with elbow grease.
As you can probably tell from my "rustic" little gougères, I just used two spoons to get these guys onto cookie sheets... but you can pipe them for a more refined look. Next time I think I would add some herbs and maybe reserve some of the cheese for dusting on top, but overall I think they turned out pretty well for a first effort.