This is the kind of recipe everyone should have up her sleeve. Rich egg flavor meets light, airy texture for an impressive-but-easy appetizer that is adaptable to many different cheeses and herbs. The simple dough used to create these pastries — called pâte à choux — takes less than 15 minutes to make, and can be refrigerated and used a little at a time for up to a week. It is the basis of a number of other French pastries, including cheese puffs, cream puffs and éclairs. Makes about 20 cheese puffs.
To make the pâte à choux (choux paste):
1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs at room temperature
Combine milk, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and quickly stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring vigorously until the paste does not cling to the spoon. Immediately remove it from the heat and let is cool a little, for about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix each egg in thoroughly before adding another. Your dough will be thick, sticky and shiny. You can use it immediately or refrigerate for a few hours before use. You do not need to bring it to room temperature before baking, but you’ll need to add a couple of minutes of baking time if you start with cold dough.
To make the Gruyère Gougères (cheese puffs)
2 cups Gruyère cheese (or a mixture of other hard cheeses), grated
2 tbsp minced chives
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir 1 1/2 cups of cheese and the chives into the dough. Drop dough by the tablespoonful on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each puff with the beaten egg. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese over the tops. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for about another 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
See Also: Check out our June/July issue for more egg recipes, including the Homemade Chocolate Éclair pictured above, which uses the same Choux Paste featured here.
Photo by Tim Nauman Photography