Classic gougères (cheese puffs)

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Pâte à choux is one of my all-time favorite things to make. It’s one of those recipes that seems daunting but isn’t. At several points during the process you’ll probably think you ruined them. You didn’t. Have faith in the process, and have fun! Pâte à choux is not only a crowd pleaser but it’s also one of those easy things that people will think you slaved over. It’s delicious without being overwhelming, it’s light enough that you can eat several without feeling too guilty and I think they’re a blast to make. This is a very classic savory take, as opposed to a cream puff, where shredded cheese is incorporated directly into the dough giving the entire puff a subtle flavor.

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I made these for guests last week and they were a huge hit. I promise you they honestly only take about five minutes to make, another few to pipe out and then you just let them bake for 25-30 minutes, then wow your friends. Having a pastry bag will definitely make your life easier here, but it’s probably not a necessity. Like I said above, this dough goes through a few very gnarly phases before the end product, but just keep stirring and they’ll turn out perfectly!

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Classic gougères (cheese puffs)

Ingredients (Makes about 25 puffs):
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 cup of your favorite cheese, shredded (Gruyère and Emmental are obvious classics!)

Herbs like thyme or rosemary would also be a great addition, or you could experiment with your favorite spice. Nutmeg and black pepper, cayenne pepper… The possibilities are endless! Don’t forget that since pâte à choux hollows out when it cooks, you can also fill these with béchamel sauce, whipped goat cheese or even a roasted bell pepper purée!

Preheat your oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and water over medium heat. Measure your flour and have it ready, as well as your eggs. The entire process goes incredibly fast once the liquid starts boiling and you’ll want everything nearby and ready! Arm yourself with a wooden spoon and keep an eye on your saucepan. As soon as it starts simmer, dump the flour in all at once and stir, stir, stir!

Within a minute or so, the mixture will come together and start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring (constantly!) for a minute or two longer until the dough forms a ball and dries out slightly (it should no longer be sticky). Remove from heat.

Now you’ll want to add the eggs, one at a time. After each addition (and this is where your upper-arm strength will be tested!), the dough will seem to fall apart and you’ll swear that you’ve ruined your gougères and think that there’s no possible way it’ll ever come back together. And then it will! You just have to keep stirring ;) Add all four eggs in this way, and once you have incorporated all of them and have a beautiful, shiny, homogeneous dough, stir in the cheese.

Now you’re ready to pipe! Leaving about 2 inches between your gougères, pipe the dough onto a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. You should hold your pastry bag almost vertically, nearly touching the baking sheet, and pipe without moving the pastry bag very much, letting the dough “fill out” naturally until you have a mound about the size of a golf ball. Don’t worry if your mounds have funny little tails, you can smooth that out with a spoon dipped in water once you’re done.

Now, sprinkle with more shredded cheese if you want, and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the gougères are a dark, golden brown. Cut one open to make sure they’re done: the inside should be slightly moist but not too doughy. Serve warm!

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