I had been making pâte à choux, the light pastry dough used to fashion cream puffs, for years as a professional pastry chef before I learned about this savory version. Once I heard about it, it was like a light bulb had gone off in my head: of course you can make a tremendous predinner nibble if you whip up some pâte à choux and mix a ridiculous amount of cheese into it. These cheesy, gooey pastry puffs go together quickly and store well in the freezer, and you are guaranteed to look like a pro when you serve a warm batch of them to your friends and family.
- Yield: 18
- ½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp (150 g) unbleached all-purpose f lour
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups (170 g) shredded Gruyère cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C, and place one rack in the center and one rack in the top third of the oven. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup/240 ml water and heat over medium heat until the butter has melted. Do not let the mixture come to a boil or some of the water will evaporate. Add the flour all at once, then stir the flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon until it is fully incorporated. The mixture will look like a really stiff pancake batter. Keep stirring vigorously over medium heat until the mixture slowly starts to look more like loose dough and less like stiff batter. It will also lose its shine and look more matte. Stir continuously for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the dough starts to leave a film at the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the stand mixer. Beat the dough on medium-low speed for 1 minute. This will allow some of the steam to escape and the dough to cool slightly. (Or, in a medium bowl, vigorously beat the mixture by hand with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes.) Crack the eggs into a small pitcher and whisk to break up the yolks. On medium-low speed (or beating vigorously by hand), gradually add the eggs to the dough. When the eggs have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 20 seconds, or until the dough is glossy and shiny. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the Gruyère. Using the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix well to incorporate the cheese completely.
- Fit the pastry bag with the pastry tip and fill the bag with the dough. If you don’t have a pastry bag and tip, cut 1 in/2.5 cm from one corner of a plastic storage bag and fill the plastic bag with the dough. Pipe out balls about 1½ in/4 cm in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the balls about 2 in/5 cm apart. If the balls form a peak on top, moisten your fingertip with water and tap down the peaks.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven. The heat of the oven will immediately start turning the liquid in the batter into steam, which will cause the pastries to inflate. After about 10 minutes, when the pastries have puffed up and are starting to turn golden brown, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F/165°C, then switch the baking sheets between the oven racks and rotate the sheets back to front. Continue to bake for another 25 to 28 minutes, or until the pastries are evenly golden brown without any pale spots. Let the pastries cool on the baking sheets on wire racks until they are cool enough to handle, then serve immediately.