A tip I learned from a pastry chef last night: freeze them. They will do just fine on counter (assuming your kitchen isn't seriously hot) or in fridge, but will do best if frozen. The frozen allows them to puff just that little bit more. Watch closely as they bake, as you may need to add a minute or two to the total cooking time.
The longer they sit, the less they will rise, whether they are on your counter, or in your fridge or freezer. From a food safety perspective the eggs introduced are basically cooked by the heat of the water/butter/flour dough you have made on the stove top. However, remember you are adding in additional cheese, and beating this all together and taking the temperature up-thus creating a potential breeding ground for bacteria. It doesn't sound like you will keep them out long so this shouldn't be an issue-just a note of caution for all regarding when/how bacteria grows.
If you don't bake them immediately, you will not get the same rise. Remember, pate a choux (french term for the twice cooked dough you use in gougeres) does not contain any leaveners, such as yeast, baking soda, baking powder or even whipped egg whites. The dough rises during baking by the release of steam, created by the wet dough and it's interaction with air pockets created during the final mixing phase as you add in the eggs. Too much moisture can effect this delicate balance-thats why the ingredients are pretty exact, and you should be judicious in your introduction of too much cheese-this will add additional moisture. Time - ie, the time on your counter, or in the fridge, is the enemy of air pockets-they will gradually and naturally dissipate. So you will see a decrease in the rise by failing to cook them immediately.
Not to say they will fail-but gougeres will hold up nicely-I'd recommend you bake them off immediately and hold the finished product. Finished they can also be frozen.
Thank you both!
Shuna is a pastry chef in New York City and author of the acclaimed blog Eggbeater.
Having worked in restaurants where I have had to produce thousands of pate choux products, the freezer is your friend. It's your best friend and it loves pate choux. What you don't want is a skin forming on the outside of the dough while it sits at room temperature and that added time in the freezer gives it a bit of extra moisture. in a pinch I might egg wash the dough if I have to leave it out for more than a few minutes. I agree that baked pate choux can be frozen but it's much harder to "re-fresh" as choux baked goods tend to be most delicious when baked fresh.
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