Cheese puffs, also known as gougères, make a fabulous appetizer for special occasions, especially with the addition of crab and sharp cheddar. The puff dough is the same basic pâte à choux (pat ah shoo) recipe used for cream puffs and eclairs, but we’ve simplified and sped up the process by using a processor to mix in the eggs and cheese.
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 24-27 min
Special tools: processor, parchment paper
1 c water
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 t salt
1 c all-purpose flour
5 lg eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar, such as Tillamook aged cheddar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in heavy-bottomed pot (do not boil over). When butter is completely melted, add flour all at once and stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat, smearing dough and bringing it together repeatedly until smooth and aromatic, about 1 min. Transfer dough to a processor bowl and pulse 3 sec to cool slightly. With processor running, add eggs in steady stream; stop processor and scrape down sides. Add cheese and process 10 seconds until incorporated. Drop by tablespoonfuls on parchment-lined sheet pans, leaving space between each to allow it to double in size (dough can be piped onto sheet pans, if desired). Wet fingertips and smooth each puff to make a rough, round ball. Bake 12 min. Rotate pans top to bottom and spin each pan from front to back. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 12-15 min, until puffed completely and lightly golden on top. Transfer cheese puffs to cooling rack. Puffs can be made in advance, kept covered at room temp and reheated briefly in 350 degrees oven. Or, shape dough balls and freeze until ready to bake, but don’t thaw prior to baking; simply add 2 min of initial baking time.
1/2 lb Dungeness crab meat (or shrimp meat)*
2 T mayo
1/4 c sour cream
1 T chives, chopped
1 T fresh dill, chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T butter, melted
Combine all well. Chill until ready to use. When puffs are cool, make a small slit in each and fill the pocket with 1-2 teaspoons of filling. Garnish with dill and serve.
*Cooked mushrooms and cream cheese or smoked salmon spread from your Market Meat Department also make excellent filling substitutions. You can also replace the crab with Oregon bay shrimp, if desired.