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.
Have I ever told you the revelatory tale of the Impromptu Golden Yogurt Cupcakes? It’s the reason the baking ratios in my Kitchen Grimoire are worth trying for yourself. Plus, you get cake. Since when was that not incentive enough to try something new?
|• 300g flour for 2x 9” round
• 1.5% salt
• 6.5% baking powder
At this point you may be wondering what the fuck you’re looking at. It’s not a recipe. There are no instructions. How perfectly useless!
So no, there aren’t any instructions. Working from ratios with baking assumes you already know how to assemble these things. But this is, in fact, a recipe. It’s just expressed in a way that dispenses with the clunky system of cups, spoons, and bushels that we’ve all grown to love. When you work with ratios, you work solely by weight. As in with a scale.
Before you get to the complaining about this being so awkward, consider the tare button on a scale. You weigh in an ingredient, press it, the scale zeroes, and you weigh in the next ingredient. If that’s somehow harder than getting out a minimum of eight separate volume measures, you’re doing it wrong.
But I digress.
You’re going to use a scale, and you won’t even bother bitching about it because you will realize how awesome this is the second you start doing it and suddenly won’t be able to stop talking about how it changed your life. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyhow, this is so a recipe because baking is chemistry. Cakes, cookies, breads, etc. all rely on ingredients being in specific proportion to each other. Doesn’t matter the quantities so long as they’re always in the same ratio. But it does matter the way you measure. Thus the scale.
So let’s decode this sucker as it would be baked for the two 9-inch rounds given as the reference weight. Right there, we have a starting point. 300 grams of flour. A little bit of math now goes a long way.
In the recipe, cake flour’s proportion is 1. And we’re using 300 grams of cake flour. Which is now to say that 1 part = 300 grams as we work out how much of the rest of the ingredients are required. This makes the sugar easy, being 1 part, it’s also 300 grams. 180 grams of unsalted butter (300 x 0.6), 240 grams of milk (300 x 0.8) and 120 grams (300 x 0.4) of egg.
Don’t panic! Look over here, and you’ll see that you’re looking at twoish eggs.
The salt and leavener are calculated as a percentage of your flour. And in this case, you need 4.5 grams of salt (300 x 0.015) and and 19.5 grams of baking powder (300 x 0.0165).
But all of that, that’s for two 9-inch rounds. I just want some cupcakes to use up the leftover egg yolks from these cookies!
Oh, but we’re almost there.
So we have three egg yolks, weighing in at 60 grams. Instead of working from the flour to get what one part is, work from the eggs. Divide 60 by the egg’s proportion in the ratio, 0.4, to get 150. So instead of 1 part = 300 grams as before, now 1 part = 150 grams. The rest works like it did before. 150 grams of cake flour (1 x 150 grams), 150 grams of sugar (1 x 150 grams), 90 grams of unsalted butter (0.6 x 150 grams), and 120 grams of milk (0.8 x 150 grams) are what you’ll need to make a cake from three egg yolks.
And didn’t I say something about Golden Yogurt? The golden comes from the egg yolks. Notice that the ratio calls for eggs. You get wiggle room in there and can use whatever part of the egg you have left over, though if it’s whites, you’re better off with Angel Food Cake. And it should go without saying that I used yogurt rather than milk. Because why not? The extra acid made the cake super tender and tangy. This yielded about 10 cupcakes, by the by.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re hooked. Check out the ratios in my Kitchen Grimoire and go wild!