December 14, 2008

Salt-and-Pepper Cheese Puffs (Gougeres)

Tried these out at the Boston Holiday party and they taste like bites of mac and cheese! So tasty, they were eaten right up. Simple, inexpensive and really fun. I'll definitely make these again very soon!

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (see notes)

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh-ground pepper

Coarse sea salt (see notes)

In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the butter to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat, add flour all at once, and stir until mixture is a smooth, thick paste with no lumps. Add a quarter of the beaten eggs at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until dough is no longer slippery. Stir in cheese and pepper.

Spoon dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe in 48 equal mounds on two cooking parchment-lined or buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. (Alternatively, drop dough on sheets in slightly rounded tablespoon-size portions.) Sprinkle each mound with a few grains of coarse sea salt. Bake at 400 until dry and well browned, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes: These easy puffs are especially good made with strongly flavored, aged white English, Irish, or Canadian cheddar. Imported sea salt adds pretty, crunchy crystals. The puffs can be made up to 1 month ahead and frozen; cool, then freeze airtight. Reheat thawed puffs, uncovered, in a 375 oven until crisp and hot, about 5 minutes.

Nutritional analysis per puff. Yield: Makes 48 puffs; 12 to 14 servings. CALORIES 53 (61% from fat); FAT 3.6g (sat 2g); CHOLESTEROL 35mg; CARBOHYDRATE 3.1g; SODIUM 87mg; PROTEIN 1.9g; FIBER 0.1g

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