Saturday, July 14th was Bastille Day and we are in full TOUR DE FRANCE mode. So in keeping with our theme, this week’s recipe is quite possibly my favorite food of all time. These delectable cheese puffs are made with pâte à choux, a dough that is not complicated, but is certainly unique.
Pâte à choux is used in many classic pastries both sweet and savory, including cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles, (cream puffs stuffed with ice cream), religeuse (stacked cream puffs stuffed with coffee cream – no, I am not making that up), and pommes dauphine (mixed with potato and deep fried, like a snobby tater tot). Inventive chefs use cream puffs as a vessel for all sorts of sweet and savory fillings.
Pâte à choux is also used to make the most bicycle-oriented dessert of all time, the Paris-Brest … but I am saving that recipe for the end of the race. (Think of it as your yellow jersey of pastry.) These cheese puffs less complicated, which is good for pâte à choux beginners. This recipe requires strong arm muscles, as the incorporation of the eggs takes some effort. If you lack the muscle you may use an electric mixer, but beware: over-mixing this batter will make it soupy. Mix it just enough to incorporate each egg.
2 cups water
5 oz.(1-1/4 stick) butter
1 TB. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (or good quality Swiss)
1 egg yolk
1 TB. cream
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray. In a large sauce pan combine water, butter, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. At the boil add flour and stir vigorously with a sturdy spoon for at least 3 minutes, until all the flour is absorbed and the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, blending each one thoroughly before adding the next. When all the eggs are in add cheese and mix well.
- Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 spoons, drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Make an egg wash with egg yolk and cream and brush lightly on top of each puff. Bake at 400˚F until puffed and dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Make these ahead, store airtight in the freezer, then re-heat in the oven just before serving.
This batter can be flavored in a number of ways by stirring into the batter one cup of additional garnish. Try sautéed mushrooms, chopped chives, caramelized onions; or spice it up with curry powder, Italian seasoning, or herbes de Provence.