Classic French gougeres, made with dough you would use for cream puffs, depend on air beaten into the mixture to make it expand in the oven. Do this in an electric mixer or food processor. The dough is ready when you pick some up with a spoon and it falls back onto itself in a thick pleat. If you’re feeling strong, it’s hard, but not impossible, to do this by hand.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
4 eggs, beaten to mix
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
1 extra egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for the glaze)
1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk the flour and salt to blend them.
3. In a heavy-based saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Immediately, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the flour mixture until there are no lumps.
4. Return the saucepan to the heat and continue beating on medium-low heat for 30 seconds until the batter comes away from the sides of the pan in one mass.
5. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring the dough for 2 minutes to dry it out slightly.
6. Remove the pan from the heat. With a wooden spoon, begin beating in the eggs, 2 tablespoons at a time. After each addition, beat the dough well, until it is very shiny and soft enough to fall gently off the spoon.
7. Beat in the grated cheese.
8. Use 2 small spoons to drop 1 1/2-inch mounds of dough on the baking sheets, leaving space around each. Or fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain round tip and pipe the dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds, leaving space around each.
9. With your fingertip, dab each mound with egg to make the tops smooth.
10. Bake the gougeres for 20 minutes or until they are brown and puffed. Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and continue baking for 10 minutes or until the cracks where the pastry puffs are golden. The puffs will collapse if they are underbaked. Use a sharp paring knife to pierce the puffs in one spot. Return them to the oven for 2 minutes to dry. (Total baking time is 32 to 35 minutes.) Transfer to a rack to cool.