These gougères are a staple at our restaurant Bar Boulud. Flavorful and substantial, they are great to eat along with a glass of bubbly before sitting down to a meal, and are one of Martha Stewart's favorite party appetizers.
The gougères can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, combine the milk with the water, butter and salt; bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the flour all at once, then the Piment d’Espelette, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour is thoroughly incorporated and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 5-10 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the dough cools slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring briskly between additions to thoroughly incorporate each egg.
Drop 3-tablespoon-sized mounds of dough onto the baking sheets, two inches apart. Top each round with one tablespoon of cheese; sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.
Bake the gougères for 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the gougères are puffed and browned. Turn off the oven, propping the door ajar with a wooden spoon. Let the gougères rest in the oven for about 30 minutes longer, until crisp on the outside but still steamy within. Serve warm or at room temperature.