Gruyere cheese gougeres with anchovy crosses

X marks the spot on these cheese puffs.
X marks the spot on these cheese puffs. Photo: William Meppem

Traditionally, these cheese puffs from Burgundy are served cold, to accompany wine tastings in cellars, but you can't beat them warm as little canapes. They should be light and crisp on the outside, and soft within, and are easier to make than you might think. If you want to keep it vegetarian, use slivers of black olives instead of the anchovy fillets. Once cooked, the gougeres can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days and reheated to serve.

Ingredients

100g plain flour

1 tsp mustard powder

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 clove garlic

¾ tsp sea salt

150ml water

70ml milk

80g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm to 3cm cubes

3 medium-sized eggs

40g gruyere cheese, finely grated, plus 25g extra for sprinkling on top

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

10 anchovy fillets, sliced into small, thin strips (you will need 60 strips altogether)

Method

1. Sift the flour, mustard powder and cayenne pepper into a small bowl and set aside.

2. Crush the garlic and sea salt together using a mortar and pestle (you could also use the back of a knife to do this) and place in a small dish.

3. Combine the water, milk and butter in a medium-sized saucepan, and place over low heat. When the butter has melted, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Immediately tip in the sifted flour mixture. Lower the heat to medium and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until it forms a paste. Continue to cook until the mixture forms a ball, and leaves the sides of the saucepan. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. When the choux paste has cooled, add the eggs one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon with the addition of each egg. (You could also use a food processor or a cake mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Add the 40g grated cheese, thyme, and garlic crushed with salt. Beat until combined, shiny and smooth. At this point, the choux paste can be stored in a covered bowl in the fridge for up to a day.

5. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). 

6. Prepare two large baking trays by placing a small dab of the choux paste in each corner of the trays, then laying a sheet of baking paper on top (this helps to secure the paper onto the tray). Using two teaspoons, or a piping bag fitted with a 2cm nozzle, place small balls of the paste, about 3cm to 4cm in diameter, onto the lined tray, leaving a space of 5cm between each to allow for expansion. Dip your fingertips in cold water and smooth over the balls, then sprinkle with the reserved grated cheese. Place two strips of anchovy, crisscrossed, on top of each ball.

7. Bake for 30 minutes (resist opening the oven door for the first 15 minutes) or until the choux puffs are well risen, golden brown and light to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

8. To reheat the gougeres, place in a preheated oven at 150C (130C fan-forced) for 5 minutes.