It’s almost time for us to think about Thanksgiving gravy, holiday cocktail parties, and wrapping paper.
And holiday cards, and party dresses, and church service, and the right shade of Christmas red lipstick. Gosh. We’re going to need a gift for the mail carrier, and the FedEx guy, and the dude at the bank that always makes everything better. So many things are about to happen.
It’s like once Halloween passes, the rest of the year is just madness. Right?
Can we just ease on in to this whole situation?
Let’s start slow. Baby steps. Appetizers.
These cheese puffs start with a simple pate a choux dough. We’ve definitely talked about pate a choux before, but usually in sweet incarnations. See: Strawberry Cream Puffs with Milk Chocolate Sauce.
Pate a choux is made by stirring together water and melted butter with flour over a low flame. It’s a cooked dough! Eggs are beaten into the cooked dough and the silky dough is piped onto a baking sheet. Instead of adding sugar, we’re going to add a major amount of cheese and herbs. These are totally light and pop-able… and we can make ahead and freeze them too!
We’re learning. It’s cool.
We’re cooking dough!
These puffs start by simmering water with butter and a smidge of whole grain mustard.
Our flour, eggs, and herbs are standing by. Hold please.
Oh! Salt and pepper into the water, too!
Away to simmer we go!
Once the butter is melted and the water in simmering, we turn the heat down low, add the flour, and quickly stir.
The dough will form a glossy, cohesive, ball. It’s actually really cool (after the few seconds of it being totally nerve bending)!
We cook the dough over low heat to cook out some of the moisture.The flour mixture will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Doing it right!
We place the cooked dough into the bowl of a stand mixer in order to beat in the eggs!
I’m a dork and I think this is totally fun.
Five eggs produces this gorgeous glossy batter!
Fresh chives, fresh herbs, lemon zest, and lots of cheese!
Really good ideas.
I put the batter into a reusable piping bag with a big 1/2-inch round tip. You can also just spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheet.
Judging by the look of my dollops of batter, I could have just as easily used a spoon. Real.
Think of this recipe as a base. The water, butter, flour, and eggs are your basic proportions. Beyond that, just imagine all the goodness you can pack into these puffs. Jalapeno and cheddar? Cinnamon sugar. Chili spices. Chai spices. The possibilities are endless.
I like to serve these puffs, slightly warm with a big wedge of Brie cheese, and whole grain mustard and jam for serving. They make lovely little bites. Tender, light, and eggy. They make a great appetizer, especially since you can freeze the baked puffs, and simply reheat them in warm oven just before serving.
We’re in this together!
Fresh Herb and Gruyère Puffs
makes about 2 dozen puffs
adapted slightly from Thomas Keller
For the Profiteroles:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, pepper, and mustard. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is brought to a simmer, lower heat slightly, and add flour all at once. Stir immediately using a stiff heat-proof spatula or a wooden spoon. Stir until the mixture thickens, pulls away from the side of the pan, forms a mass, and the bottom of the pan is clean. The mixture will be glossy and damp.
We’re going to cook the dough over a low flame. This will allow moisture to evaporate from the dough, allowing it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Stir for about 5 minutes. A thing gluten coat will form along the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, the dough will steam and the cooking flour will smell slightly nutty.
Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, releasing some of the heat from the cooked dough. Add four eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer between each egg addition and scrape down the bowl. After beating in the last egg the mixture should be glossy and thick… but still juuuust pourable. When scooped into a spoon, the dough should slowly pour off the spoon. If it doesn’t fall, or it fall in one giant clump… beat in the 5th egg. Whenever I make this recipe, I always need to add the 5th egg.
Using a spatula, fold in the chives, fresh herbs, lemon zest, and cheese until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch pastry tip. On the prepared sheets, pipe out dough into circles so that they are about 1 1/2-inches across, about 3/4-inch tall. Space them about 1 1/2-inches apart on the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans from bottom shelf to top. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake for 15 minutes more.
Remove a cream puff from the oven and slice in half. If the inside is not gooey, but still just moist, they’re done! If they’re gooey, bake for another 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
These puffs are great at room temperature, or slightly warm. To warm them, toast in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with cheese, mustard, and jam.