Cocktail party season is here, so I thought I’d give you a very elegant and incredibly easy appetizer recipe. This recipe is just my take on a classic French snack. Cheese puffs, or gougeres, are delicious on their own, but I thought it would be even more yummy to stuff them with more cheese…how bad could that be, right? These are so incredibly easy to make, and they’re perfect for holiday parties. They can be served slightly warm or at room temperature, they can be made ahead and frozen for up to a couple of weeks, and they’re just plain good. Kids really love these too. In fact, I caught my almost 3 year old taking small bites out of several of them while they were cooling.
You’re essentially making a pate a choux dough, which, in this case, is a savory cream puff pastry dough. The same dough is used to make eclairs, except that dough would be sweet instead of savory. I’ve included a note on the types of cheese to use at the bottom of the recipe, because I’m really giving you a method here, allowing you to choose what kinds of cheeses you happen to have around the house. And the extra steps of stuffing these with more cheese and tossing with butter and (again) more cheese are not necessary, but they do help make them irresistible! Most of us have all of these ingredients in our kitchen, so if you’re looking for something to serve for that upcoming cocktail party, these are just the things! Enjoy…
-In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup milk, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 tsp kosher salt, some freshly cracked black pepper, several gratings of fresh nutmeg, and a squirt of dijon mustard on medium heat until you scald the milk, (do not boil!).
-Dump in 1 cup of all purpose flour and begin to stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough ball forms. Continue to stir this on low heat for 2 minutes.
-Place the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor and add in 4 large eggs and 3/4 cup of grated cheese*. Pulse this until a smooth, thick paste is formed and all the ingredients are incorporated.
-Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper (you may need the third one depending on how small you want your puffs to be.)
-Spoon this mixture into a gallon sized zip bag and snip the tip off the corner of the bag to create your own disposable piping bag.
-Pipe the mixture onto the baking sheets, about the size of a ping pong ball (you can always make these larger, but the cooking time would need to be lengthened a bit).
-There is usually a swirl on top of each piped dollop, so with a wet finger, gently press down on each swirl to flatten each dollop, (otherwise it would burn before the puffs were fully cooked).
-Bake on 425 for 13-15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown but each puff is still soft to the touch.
-Allow to cool.
-With another zip bag, preferably a thicker, freezer bag, snip the tip off one corner and insert a medium tipped piping tip into the hole. Fill this bag with some softened herb cream cheese or goat cheese and insert the tip into each cooled puff until they are filled with the cheese.
-Right before serving, (and if you freeze these, do this after they have thawed, before they hit the table), melt 1/2 a stick of butter in a large saucepan and dump in your gougeres, shake the pan to coat all the puffs in the butter, and then immediately dump them into a large bowl with 1/2-3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Shake the bowl to coat each puff in the cheese and then place on your serving platter.
(*Gruyere and Parmesan are fairly classic but you can use your imagination here with what cheeses you pick, and by all means, mix a couple of different kinds for optimum depth of flavor. I do suggest that one of the cheeses be a strong one, like an extra sharp cheddar or Gruyere. Gorgonzola is a great, unique option when paired with a milder one like provolone or mozzarella, pimento cheese would be an excellent addition, and you can add freshly chopped herbs and minced garlic to the batter as well. This is a very versatile recipe!)