When my older daughter looked at my posting schedule and saw that I was making cheddar dill puffs this week, she just about giggled with delight and did a happy dance. Despite being a typical teenage girl, my daughter does NOT do giggles or happy dances (so uncool in her book). But these little babies will bring out the giddiness in anyone. These cheese puffs are slightly crispy on the outside and all light and airy on the inside. The cheddar cheese and dill add just enough flavor without feeling heavy.
Technically, these puffs are called gougère which in French cooking is a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough (the same kind used for cream puffs) mixed with cheese. But gougère sounds so intimidating that you might not want to try making these. And that would be a shame since they really are easy to make. So let’s stick with calling them puffs.
The dough is first cooked on the stovetop, removed from the heat, and then cooled slightly. At this point, the dough will look like a big lump of dry clay. That’s OK. As you stir in the eggs one at a time, the dough will magically become glossy and smooth. When you first add in each egg, the dough will separate and look completely messed up like what you see in the top right photo. Don’t worry – just keep stirring. As the egg gets incorporated, the dough will get smoother like what you see in the bottom left photo. Just remember to add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg in before adding the next. And stir vigorously.
Although most recipes say to pipe the puffs using a pastry bag, I find it much easier to use a small scoop. I use the kind typically used for scooping out cookie dough – a squeeze of the handle releases the dough ball onto the baking sheet quickly and easily.
These puffs are fantastic as a small appetizer before the main event at Thanksgiving or any holiday party. Serve them with a nice chilled white wine and I guarantee all your guests will be giddy too.
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 to 5 large eggs
- 1½ cups (about 6 ounces) finely grated yellow Cheddar (preferably extra-sharp)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, cook the water, butter, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the butter melts, stirring to combine. Then add flour all at once and cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. The mixture should start to come together and pull away from the side of the pan after about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
- One at a time, add 4 eggs, beating well after each addition. The batter will separate at first but will become smooth as each egg is mixed in. The mixture should be glossy and just stiff enough to hold soft peaks. If batter is too stiff, beat remaining egg in a small bowl and add to batter 1 teaspoon at a time, beating and then testing batter until it reaches proper consistency. Stir in cheese and dill.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1 to 1½ inch diameter scoop, drop the batter by scoopfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the mounds about 1 inch apart. Bake until the cheddar puffs are golden brown, crisp when tapped, and are puffed up, 25 to 30 minutes. Be sure to switch the baking sheets between the oven racks and rotate them 180 degrees halfway through baking to promote even baking. Serve warm.
Puffs can be made ahead of time, cooled completely, and then sealed in plastic bags. Puffs can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 1 week. To reheat, place puffs on baking sheets in a preheated 350°F oven for 7-10 minutes if chilled or 15 minutes if frozen or until heated through.
Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, August 2003.