Cheddar Cheese Puffs

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

To make cheese puffs, first you make a pâte a choux dough (pronounced “pat ah shoo”), which, if you’ve never made it before, can seem a little weird. Weird because most of us who bake are used to mixing dough ingredients together and then plopping them in the oven. With a pâte a choux dough, you essentially half cook the dough first, by adding flour to boiling water and butter, and stirring like a madman until you have a ball of dough the consistency of playdough. Then you mix in eggs and then the dough goes in the oven, where it puffs up as the water in the dough turns to steam and expands into air pockets.

The dough is used for making cream puffs, eclairs, cheese puffs (gougères), beignets, and even churros. David Lebovitz has a recipe for making a French tart crust with what looks to me to be essentially a pâte a choux dough, that has been getting raves. So, it’s a useful technique, and pretty easy, though the dough can be a little stiff to work by hand.

These cheese puffs are made with cheddar cheese and a little bit of thyme. You could add crumbled bacon to the mix, or use sage or rosemary. You could use goat cheese instead of cheddar, or Gruyere or Emmenthaler (more traditional for a gougère). Feel free to experiment with the cheeses. By the way, Michael Ruhlman has an excellent chapter on pâte a choux and gougères in his Ratio book.

These cheese puffs? Excellent as dumplings in split pea soup. Use instead of croutons. Or devour them as they were intended, as a savory, addictive appetizer.

Cheddar Cheese Puffs Recipe

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  • Yield: Makes about 2 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (8 Tbsp or 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or rosemary)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method

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1 In a medium sized saucepan, add the water, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2 Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir rapidly. The mixture will form a dough ball that will pull away from the sides of the pan. It helps to use a wooden spoon to stir as the dough will be rather thick. Continue to cook for a couple minutes.

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3 Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Stir so that the dough cools more evenly. You want the dough to be warm, just not so hot that when you start adding eggs they cook as they hit the dough. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition until the eggs are incorporated into the dough. (Do this part in a mixer if you want, or by hand with a wooden spoon.) The dough should become rather creamy.

4 Stir in the grated cheese, thyme, and a few grinds of pepper.

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5 Preheat oven to 425°F. Spoon out small balls (about a heaping tablespoon) of the dough onto a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, with at least an inch separating the spoonfuls. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes at 425°F. Lower heat to 350°F and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.

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Links:
Pâte a Choux and explanation by Michael Ruhlman
Jalapeño cheese puffs from Anne's Food
Gougères by David Lebovitz
French tart dough made by using a pâte a choux method, by David Lebovitz
Sage and gorgonzola cheese puffs from Dara, the Cookin' Canuck
Wikipedia on choux pastry

Showing 4 of 56 Comments

  • Michelle

    Pipe and shape and freeze before baking for later use. They will be wonderful, warm, fresh and take less space in freezer. Freeze on pan then put in a freezer bag or container. Extra few min in oven, just pop frozen puffs onto parchment lined baking sheet.

  • Erin

    Thanks for the great appetizer recipe. These turned out really well. Everyone at the party loved them!

  • Nahida

    can I freeze these puffs and how? Baked or unbaked?

  • Edel

    I’m cooking for 50 people this Sat and wonder if I made these the day before and reheated the next would they crisp up ok? Also if anyone has an idea for one other canapé that is possible to prepare the day before and won’t take too much time. I have a mammoth amount of preparing for the main and dessert!
    Sleepless and panicking in Ireland!
    Thanks in advance

  • S Mckay

    Can you please advise if these cheddar puffs will freeze? I am thinking of making them for a cocktail party with about 125 guests.
    Appreciate any feedback. – Thanks

    I think this question may have already been asked in the comments. I do not know the answer, as I have not attempted to freeze them yet. ~Elise

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