These cheddar cheese puffs (or gourgères) are like little fluffy, savory pillows, and are reminiscent of cream puffs sold at my favorite Maui bakery, Komoda’s. The texture is crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, with a pocket of air in the center.
To make cheese puffs, you begin by making a pâte a choux (pronounced “pat-ah-shoo”) dough. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy French name – pâte a choux is simply a dough made of butter, water, salt, and flour that’s cooked in a pan on the stove. Then you mix in a few eggs, and pop the dough into the oven where it puffs full of steam from the water. This dough technique is used to make beignets, eclairs, and cream puffs.
These cheese puffs are made with cheddar and thyme, but you can experiment with other cheeses and herbs. I think Gruyere or Parmesan would be good. Also feel free to add various seasonings, like cayenne pepper for some zing.
Serve these cheese puffs as an appetizer or side dish, or pair with beer. They go with anything really. Just be warned – they’re highly addictive.
Cheddar Cheese Puffs
Slightly adapted from Simply Recipes
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or rosemary)
Freshly ground pepper
In a medium-sized saucepan, add the water, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir rapidly. The mixture will form a dough ball that will pull away from the sides of the pan. It helps to use a wooden spoon to stir as the dough will be rather thick. Continue to cook for a couple minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Stir so that the dough cools more evenly. You want the dough to be warm, just not so hot that when you start adding eggs they cook as they hit the dough. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition until the eggs are incorporated into the dough. (Do this part in a mixer if you want, or by hand with a wooden spoon.) The dough should become rather creamy.
Stir in the grated cheese, thyme, and a few grinds of pepper.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spoon out small balls (about a heaping tablespoon) of the dough onto a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, with at least an inch separating the spoonfuls. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes at 425°F. Lower heat to 350°F and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.
Serve immediately. To make ahead, store cooled cheese puffs in an airtight container, and reheat in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes to re-crisp the cheese puff exteriors.
Makes about about 36.