Gougeres With Quail Eggs - The French Breakfast Sandwich

Hi, I'm a recipe for gougeres filled with quail eggs. I am what you desire most for breakfast. I am what you should make for brunch this weekend. I am your friend.
I'm writing this post on a Friday night. A wild Friday night. I've got a scoop of gelato and a slice of flourless chocolate cake made from Audrey Hepburn's recipe (I feel like that almost makes up for the bizarre reality that Kim Kardashian just bought Jackie Kennedy's Cartier watch). Close at hand is a monumental stack of cookbooks. I love my cookbooks so much. I love flipping through and reading bits of them and looking at all the lovely things there are left in the world to make. And then, even when not cooking, I like to have them next to me, sort of cheering me on as it were. Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1) and Audrey Hepburn (Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother's Kitchen) and Andie Mitchell (Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook) and Renee Erickson (A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories) looking at me from their gorgeous hard covers, telling me my ideas are valid. You know, because everyone gets confidence boosts from their cookbooks. It isn't that I expect to ever be as good at cooking as the men and women who wrote the cookbooks I love, but I enjoy the silent, talented host. I enjoy knowing that when I open Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 I'll have Julia there convincing me that there is nothing easier than making quenelles now that we have food processors. I like that. It feels like having access to a sort of culinary throne-room. If I read the steps and follow the steps and don't try to cut corners, things will go all right. It works inversely too - when I do have a unique idea, I often check it against these cookbooks to see if it (or something similar) has been done. For these reasons, among others, I will never fully give up flesh-and-blood cookbooks and maybe neither should you.

This week's culinary triumph was something I didn't realize I had always wanted in my life. Don't you love when that happens? It turns out that it takes quite a lot of effort to use up two dozen quail eggs and I knew that I wanted to do something....something cute with them for lack of a less basic term. My mind lazily blew back through memories of flipping through one of my cookbooks and seeing a recipe for gougeres. I've never eaten gougeres before but, being under the vague impression that they were sort of like a cream puff, but cheesy, I had a vision of savory puffs filled with quail eggs instead of pastry cream. My recent binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show is good for something - it has taught me the terrors of putting too much moisture into things that oughtn't to be moist at all. I knew that if I was intending to bastardize gougeres, I would need to do it well. And that meant not creating a dreaded soggy-bottom with the puff base. Here I turned both to Renee's and Julia's books (mentioned above) and between the two I was able to clap together delicious, cheesy puffs. When cooked, the tops are cut off and set aside, any superfluous interior plucked away (cook's treat!) and the quail eggs cracked inside. The gougeres are then put into a 425 degree oven to get nice and toasty (they legitimately taste like Cheez-Its at this point) and when the white is just set and the yolks are still runny, you take them out, clap a spig of thyme onto their faces, and eat the whole thing. Let me explain something: imagine the yummiest croissant breakfast sandwich you've ever eaten and multiply that satisfaction by about fourteen. Then realize you can have about four of these for the same amount of calories. Yes, your life has been brightened by the light of a quail-egg cheese-pastry. Mine has been too. Let us thank both French cookery and tiny little quail eggs. God bless 'em both. If the idea of making a stove-top dough that is then supposed to actually puff well intimidates you, be encouraged by Julia Child's notes:
"You cannot fail with puff shells - as mounds of pate a choux puff and brown automatically in a hot oven..."
Remember to pierce the side of each puff when you remove it from the oven to release extra steam and they'll be right as rain.

Gougeres With Quail Eggs
makes two-dozen gougeres
1/2 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Flaky sea salt
2 dozen quail eggs*
a handful of thyme sprigs
*you may fill as many or as few gougeres with eggs as you wish. The amount called-for is presuming you would like to fill all of your gougeres. However, the desired number of gougeres may be filled and the others frozen until needed.

  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, heat the butter, milk, salt, paprika, and nutmeg until the butter has completely melted. Add the flour, stirring/smearing constantly until a film forms over the bottom of the saucepan and the dough has come together and left the sides of the pan.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat and allow the dough to cool for ten minutes. With a large wooden spoon (or a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment), beat in eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat for a few extra moments after adding the final egg to be sure your dough is well mixed. It will be thick, about the consistency of sugar cookie dough - this should take about five minutes or until your arms fall off.
  3. Add grated Gruyere cheese at this stage and mix well.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Spoon your dough into a pastry bag, a ziplock with the corner cut, or simply use two spoons and form mounds on your trays, about 1" long and about 1/2" high. You want your gougeres to be compatible with the size of your quail eggs for an even distribution of filling, so don't form them too large. Sprinkle tops with flaky salt.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 375 for an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven, then bring oven temperature back up to 400 degrees F.
  6. Allow the gougeres to cool on the tray for five minutes. Slit the side of each puff to allow steam to escape. When partially cool, cut the "lids" horizontally from gougeres. Crack one quail egg into the hollow interior of each gougere and then return trays to oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are just set. Remove from oven, top with fresh thyme, and serve immediately.

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