KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — There is a glutton in every one of us.

Let us confess it; this is true whether we willingly admit it or not. There are days when salads and soups just wouldn’t do; we need more.


Ah, but our waistlines protest!

Aren’t we on a diet? No thick cut steak or big bowls of white rice. Leafy greens and clear broth are just what the nutritionist prescribed, no?

This is when the glutton inside of me decides to cheat a little. Or at least fudge the truth a smidgen.


Cut the butter into cubes so they will melt faster.
Cut the butter into cubes so they will melt faster.

Reality is whatever we want it to be. (I’m sure this is a line from some Marvel Multiverse movie but who can keep track with the dozens they keep pumping out?)

I am thinking of light-as-air, cotton-like puffs of choux pastry. If it barely weighs anything, it can’t be that bad for us, surely?

Alas, you argue, these choux pastries tend to be filled with ribbons of rich cream. Too heavy. Not as light as one might imagine.

How about a savoury choux pastry then? How about a gougère?

Add the eggs one at a time to the 'gougère' batter.
Add the eggs one at a time to the 'gougère' batter.

Purportedly hailing from 19th century Burgundy, these French pastries don’t have a grain of sugar in them. A gougère (pronounced "goo-zhair”) leans towards the salt... and maybe a bit of cheese.

The perspicacious amongst you would have caught me out by now: "a bit of cheese” might be understating the situation somewhat.

Ah, but when these little savoury balls of pleasure are so dainty and light, you could pretend you’re eating nothing but air. Cheesy puffs of air, but still...

Gougères with aged Cheddar & smoked paprika

Gougères don’t work without cheese and it’s a hard cheese that we want here. The most common cheeses used include Gruyère and Comté, but I find a good aged Cheddar works splendidly here as well.

Scoop balls of batter using tablespoons (left) and sprinkle some extra grated cheese (right).
Scoop balls of batter using tablespoons (left) and sprinkle some extra grated cheese (right).

Aged Cheddars are aged anywhere from a few months to several years. The longer the Cheddar is aged, the more moisture it loses as fat and protein break down. This process concentrates the cheese’s flavours — expect something sharp and nutty in taste, with a dense and crumbly texture.

Personally what I like best about aged Cheddar is its strong, earthy funk. Reminds me of local fermented foods and ingredients like belacan and cincaluk I had growing up as a Malaccan boy.

Despite its heady aroma and hard, blocky nature, aged Cheddar still melts easily which is perfect for our gougères.

Nutmeg is a traditional seasoning for gougères — perhaps the spice is a beloved spice in Burgundy — but I don’t really miss it when I omit it. Instead I find a generous pinch of smoked paprika adds a warmer note to these savoury choux pastries.

Freshly baked 'gougères', straight from the oven.
Freshly baked 'gougères', straight from the oven.


240ml full cream milk

120g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika, with a bit more for dusting

120g all-purpose flour, sifted

4 large eggs, at room temperature

250g grated hard cheese (Cheddar, Gruyère, Comté, etc.)

Freshly ground black pepper

Dust the 'gougères' with some smoked paprika before serving.
Dust the 'gougères' with some smoked paprika before serving.


Combine the milk, butter, salt and smoked paprika in a large saucepan. Gently bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Once the butter has melted completely, turn the heat to low and add the flour. Stir it in thoroughly until a smooth, wet paste begins to form. Continue to stir this mixture until it dries out and thickens into a dough, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 210°C. Line your baking tray with parchment paper.

When all the eggs have been mixed into the batter, add the cheese and a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper. A vigorous stir will do; the cheese will melt in the oven.

Scoop and form balls of batter using two tablespoons. Place them on the baking tray. Sprinkle some extra grated cheese on each ball before putting the tray into the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the gougères are crisp and golden brown on the outside.

Dust the gougères with some smoked paprika and serve immediately whilst hot. You may also set any extra gougères aside to cool and freeze them for reheating later.

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