Gougères, or cheese puffs, are the savoury cousin of cream puffs. They are light and airy, and make the perfect party snack because you can make them in advance. My version includes a lemony and creamy feta and dill filling.
If I’m looking to put in minimal effort, but still impress the socks off my friends/coworkers/family, I make one of two things – cream puffs (like this and this) or cheese puffs, aka gougères. Both are made from a classic French pastry called Pâte à Choux (pronounced “Pat a shoe”) and the most basic form of the pastry requires 4 simple ingredients that you will already have on hand – water, butter, flour and eggs.
These ingredients form a thick dough that can be either piped or spooned into little mounds, and as they bake, the liquid ingredients evaporate, causing the pastry to puff up and create a slightly hollow inside. This makes them perfect for filling with sweet cream, or in my case with gougères, a cheesy dill concoction.
The pastry used to make gougères differs from that of a cream puff or éclair, in that cheese is added to the dough to give it flavour, and it’s often eaten without a filling. If you know me, then you know I love cheese of all kinds, and look for any excuse to incorporate it. As much as I love gougères hot and fresh out of the oven, I knew that filling them would only elevate their already impressive characteristics.
I borrowed some inspiration from another party favourite of mine, Smoked Salmon Rillettes, and made a filling of fresh dill, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, cream cheese, and added in some salty feta for good measure. It took every ounce of willpower to keep my fingers out of the cheesy filling before I piped it into the gougères.
Quick, easy, and impressive, French cheese puffs, or gougères, make a great appetizer for holiday parties, potlucks, or just because! Serve them as is, or pipe them full of whipped feta and dill for an extra special treat.
Feta and Dill Gougères
Pâte à Choux
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a few turns of freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp finely chopped chives or scallion greens
- 3 oz about 3/4 cup grated parmesan
Feta and Dill Filling
- 1/2 cup cream cheese softened
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 2 tbsp dill finely chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pâte à Choux
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat water, butter, salt, and pepper, until the butter has completely melted.
- As soon as the butter has all melted, remove the pot from the heat, and add all the flour to the pan and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. The dough should pull away from the sides slightly.
- Return the pan to the heat, and continue to stir for about 1 minute, to allow the dough to dry out slightly. There will be a film that forms on the bottom of the pan, and this is completely normal.
- Remove from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low to help the dough cool down slightly. **If you don't have a stand mixer, transfer the dough to a large bowl and set it aside to cool slightly.
- Once the dough has cooled down, turn the mixer to medium, and add one egg at a time, mixing until smooth.
- Add about 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, and the chives/scallions and mix well.
- Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe into mounds about the size of cherry tomatoes, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan.
- Bake for 5 mins at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cut an "x" into the side or bottom of each puff. and set aside to cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine all ingredients and mix until well combined, and smooth. Adjust flavours to taste, such as more lemon, dill or salt if you think it needs it.
- Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. Insert the tip of the piping bag into the "x" you cut into the side or bottom of each puff, and pipe to fill with cheese filling. A good indicator that it's full, is when the cheese filling begins to ooze out of the puff.
- Serve immediately.
Choux pastry adapted from David Lebovitz.