Smokey Garlic Cheese Puffs
Planters Cheez Balls no longer wowing your guests? These little nibbles from heaven are lighter-than-air and devilishly good.
Smoked paprika is the essential flavor component in this recipe. Once hard to find, it’s now on the spice shelf at Trader Joe’s. Vegetarians who miss the smokiness of bacon will find it a welcomed addition to their kitchens.
The venerable French gougère, which is what these are, is a blank canvas of pâte à choux dough on which you can and should project your deepest savory desires. Slightly more effort is required than opening a bag, but yet another opportunity presents itself to learn an endlessly useful baking ratio. This recipe is a gateway to cream puffs, if that helps to influence your decision.
Piped with a 1/4-inch round tip, this recipe yields about 40 puffs.
Smokey Garlic Cheese Puffs
220g whole milk
110g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
110g a/p flour
4 large eggs
100g aged gouda, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
In a sauce pan of at least two quarts’ capacity over medium heat, stirring occasionally, bring milk, salt, and butter to a strong simmer. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, whisking vigorously to combine. Return to medium heat. Stirring constantly with a spoon or heat-safe silicon spatula, cook until the butter begins to seep from the mass. This will take about five minutes. Better to overcook than under in this case, but mind that the bottom doesn’t burn.
Remove pan from heat. If you have a stand mixer, dump the dough into the work bowl and set the mixer to “stir” with the whisk attachment. If fate has yet to bestow a stand mixer upon you, just pour into a bowl and stir every five minutes. Either way, allow the dough to cool to hot bath temperature before proceeding.
While you wait, grate cheese and measure out the spices. If you’re planning to pipe this with a pastry bag, the cheese must be grated finely so as to not clog the tip. Otherwise, any grate size you desire is fine by me.
Once the dough has cooled sufficiently, whisk in eggs one at a time. Do not add a new egg until the dough is smooth. It goes almost without saying that this is easier with a stand mixer. It also goes without saying that this is a good excuse to put that hunky neighbor to work if you don’t have a stand mixer.
Pour in cheese and spices and whisk to combine. The dough will keep in the fridge for at least three days at this point. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 450º with racks set in the middle of the upper and lower thirds and proceed per below.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. The Fancy Piping Brigade should now squeeze out thumb-sized kisses. Everyone else can scoop generous teaspoons. Allow about an inch and a half between puffs. Smooth any dimples with a wet finger and immediately slip into the oven.
Bake seven minutes and then swap cookies sheets between racks, rotating 180º as you do so. Bake for another seven minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool completely on racks before storing or serving. If baking more than a day before serving, reheat on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350º to crisp back up.
Two final notes. First, you need to use a proper canvas or silicon piping bag as the dough is so viscous that it will burst all other options. Second, you should take this recipe and run with it! There are so many ways to vary it. Just make sure you always use a reasonably dry cheese. Nothing wetter than say, cheddar, or the gougères will be soggy.