Potluck Survival with Some Help from Ratio: Caprese Sandwiches on Parmesan Gougères

CapreseGougeres[Jump right to the recipe: Caprese Sandwiches on Parmesan Gougères]

Recently, the Austin food bloggers gathered again for a potluck, giving me another blogger event to simultaneously look forward to and fret about. I of course work myself up unnecessarily. Our local blogging group is so down to earth and ready to try new food that they are possibly the easiest group of people I’ve ever fed. They also make some amazing food. See for yourself:

  • Food Blogger Potluck, The Sequel – A rundown of the event from Addie Broyles, the Statesman’s food writer extraordinaire and organizer of our foodie fun.
  • Lemon Tart – A recipe from Anna at Cookie Madness for easily the best lemon dessert I’ve ever had.
  • Potlucks and Pig-Pickinses – Welcome to Texas! – A fantastic story of not one but two food-lover events in one day from Boots In the Oven, my favorite read when I need a foodie fix and a good laugh.
  • Ethel’s Sugar Cookies – A recipe from Lisa is Cooking where you’ll gain pounds just looking at her beautiful pictures.
  • Food Blogger Pot Luck and Slow Food Austin Pot Luck – Yet another two-for-one post about local foodie events from Jennie who reminds me that it’s important to really enjoy your food.
  • Technical Difficulties – A fantastic recipe for Penne Pasta with Goat Cheese Sauce, blackberries, and pecans from Teddy at Fun With Your Food who may have had technical issues but never has issues coming up with tasty recipes.

For our last potluck I took the opportunity to really think through what makes a great dish for a potluck, and the result was my Potluck Survival Guide. For this potluck I wanted to follow all of those basic principles, but also flex my culinary muscles and put to work what I’ve learned as I’ve been reading Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio. Finally, the pickin’s at the farmers markets these days are amazing and it seemed a shame to not make the most of some great local produce. The end result was an idea for Caprese Sandwiches on Parmesan Gougères. The caprese part of the recipe gave me a chance to showcase the best tomatoes and basil available at the market right now (both are just amazing), and the gougères element gave me a chance to test out the pâte à choux ratio from Ratio. Even though it’s a little different from my last potluck, this dish meets the requirements of my survival guide because:

  • It can be made ahead and is easy to transport.
  • It can sit safely at room temperature for a while without spoiling.
  • It’s easy to eat with one hand.

Before I dive right into the recipe, let’s take a moment to discuss one of my favorite food bites ever, gougeres.

Gougère Musings

I’ve been making gougères for a while as one of my party staples. They are exceptionally easy to make, freeze beautifully, and can support myriad flavor combinations. Pâte à choux is really (I mean really) easy to make. You cook up a little flour, water, and butter, mix in some eggs and cheese and you’re done. Really, I promise. It’s that easy. I use my Kitchen Aide to incorporate the eggs, but you can actually make them in one pan if you’re up for building some arm strength.

I think pâte à choux is often under utilized by home cooks because it seems like it should be harder than it is. My hypothesis is that any recipe that calls for a piping bag to make bread is scary. Be afraid no more! I’ve found you can skip the piping bag all together and use scoops of varying sizes to portion your balls of choux goodness. Need bite-size gougeres? Go with a 2 tsp. or 1 Tbsp. scoop. Want bigger ones; say the perfect size for little sandwiches? Try a #30 scoop. The only thing that changes in the recipe is the length of time you bake the gougères.

Seriously, if you’ve never made pâte à choux, try it. The “secrets to success” section of the recipe at the end of this post has some tips that will help you find your choux comfort zone. Ruhlman also has some great advice in Ratio, so be sure to take a look at that as well.

Choux Pastry on Foodista Learn more about choux pastry

Measuring By Volume Does Make a Difference

I’ve known for a long time that bakers who know what they’re doing always measure their ingredients by weight. You won’t typically find cups of flour called for in their recipes, but rather ounces (or possibly pounds). I even witnessed the effect the type of measuring cup and the measurer can have on the final weight of a cup of flour in a cooking class. The same measuring cup yielded flour weights between 4 and 5.5 oz depending on the person doing the measuring. In Ratio, Ruhlman is a big advocate of measuring by weight whenever possible, specifically because measures by volume can often be so inexact, and given that baking is as much of science as an art, accuracy matters.

Even though I know measuring by weight for baking is the right thing to do, I typically measure my dry ingredients for baking with a measuring cup, figuring an ounce or two here or there won’t make a difference. Boy was I wrong. When I made my parmesan gougères for this recipe, I took the time to measure all of the ingredients by volume, and these gougères were the best I’ve ever made. They were lighter, crispier, and all around more of what I’ve experienced in restaurants and other settings where the food is prepared by professional bakers and chefs. I’m officially convinced. As much as it’s sort of a pain to get the kitchen scale out to measure ingredients by volume, I can unequivocally say that it’s worth the effort for a better end product.

Ruhlman’s ratio for pâte à choux is 1 part butter, 2 parts liquid, 2 parts egg, and 1 part flour. I highly recommend snagging a copy of his book for the full scoop on how the ratios work as well downloading this hand-dandy doughs and batters ratios PDF from his site so you can print a copy and hang it on your fridge.

Pick a Flavor, Any Flavor

Once you’re comfortable making a basic pâte à choux, you’ve added a technique to your repertoire that will take you far. Pâte à choux is blank slate dough, just waiting for your favorite combination of tastes to take it from plain to yum. For the caprese sandwiches I used rosemary and parmesan to compliment the tomato, basil, and mozzarella, but that’s just a starting point. Gruyere is a traditional cheese to stir into pâte à choux dough but blue cheese is a winner and I have some suspicion a manchego and paprika gougères served with chorizo would be a truly wonderful thing. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of my favorite gougère recipes:

Recipe: Caprese Sandwiches on Parmesan Gougères


  • Difficulty: Easy (I promise)
  • Serves: Makes 18 sandwiches
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min


  • 4 oz. water
  • 4 oz. milk (any kind will do; I use skim)
  • 4 oz. butter
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature is best)
  • 1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup by volume)
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into 16 slices
  • 6 medium tomatoes, sliced in 3-4 slices each
  • 18 basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper
  • Good olive oil


Make gougères:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine milk, water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add flour all at once, reduce heat to medium, and stir until the dough comes together and forms a ball.
  4. Stir and cook for one minute more.
  5. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for five minutes.
  6. Transfer dough to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.
  7. Mix the dough on medium-low for 1-2 minutes or until the steam released from the hot dough decreases significantly.
  8. Add the eggs one at a time, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next.
  9. Add the cheese and rosemary; mix until combined.
  10. Scoop onto a parchment or slipat lined baking sheet using the scoop of your choice.
  11. Dampen fingertips with water and smooth down any peaks in the dough.
  12. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on size of the scoop (20-25 minutes for smaller gougeres and 30 for larger).
  13. Remove gougères from the oven and:
    • Serve immediately
    • Poke a hole in each gougère with a toothpick or skewer and let cool before holding for service in 24-48 hours or freezing.

Assemble sandwiches:

  1. Split each gougère in half.
  2. Top the bottom with a slice of mozzarella and tomato and a basil leaf.
  3. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Top with the remaining half and serve.

Recipe for Success

  • When you’re making pâte à choux, it’s important that the butter/four/liquid mixture not be too hot, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs when you add them. The five minutes the dough spends before you put it into the mixer and the 1-2 minutes of mixing time before you add the eggs, help the dough cool off enough to take on the eggs without scrambling them. Even if you’re tempted to save the 6-7 minutes, don’t.
  • You can make the gougères up to 3 weeks in advance. After they cool, put them on a baking sheet in the freezer for an hour to set and then place them in a heavy-duty zip-top bag and freeze. To bring them back to life, place them in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. This is true of any gougere recipe, not just this one. This is in fact why I like gougères so much for parties. You can cook up batches of them one weekend and quickly reheat when it’s time for the party.
  • If you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to try the whole pâte à choux thing, this recipe works equally well with the bread of your choice. Consider toasted sourdough, whole wheat, or rosemary bread.
  • Play around with the combination of flavors on the sandwich. Prosciutto might be a nice addition or you can build your own unique combination of flavors with the cheese, veggies, and meat of your choice. The options are really limitless.
  • Because the pâte à choux is based on a ratio, you can easily double it (or triple it and more) by modifying the ratios. A double batch would have 8 oz. each of water and milk, 8 oz. of butter, 8 oz. of flour, and 8 large eggs. You could double the parmesan and rosemary as well, or play around with the amounts you use to tweak the final flavor of the gougère.

Tools of the Trade

These kitchen tools were important to this recipe. You may want to consider adding them to your collection if you don’t have them already.

  • Digital Kitchen Scale. Slect a scale that displays both grams and ounces. A tare feature is also important so you can measure directly into the container of your choice.
  • Silpat Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat. While different cooks have their own opinion of silicon baking mats, I’ve found them to be indespensible in the kitchen and use them for most of my baking activities.
  • Size 30 Disher and Size 60 Disher. Dishers not only help you skip the piping bag in this recipe, but they make portioning cookies, muffins, ice cream, and all number of other foods much easier than a spoon ever can.


  1. Just the picture alone made me hungry – but no worries because I can get right on it and make this dish! I have all these ingredients on hand! (tip off from Michael Ruhlman)

  2. Further confirmation that I really need to get Logan a kitchen scale! It really is the most exact (and straightforward) way to bake. The gougeres were amazing, and I’d love to try some of those variations!

    Also, thanks for the link – you’re so nice!

  3. Great recipe — flagging this to make for a bridal party I’m hosting soon!

  4. Looks fantastic – love the idea of cheddar chive! I have gougeres in the freezer waiting to be crisped up for apps tonight.

    Is there a typo in your summary of Ruhlman’s recipe? I see 1 part flour written twice. Is one of those supposed to be butter?

    • Natanya Anderson /

      Katherine – great catch on the double listing of flour. It should indeed be better and I’ve made the change. Thank you so much!

  5. YUMMY! Those sliders look perkily perfect!


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