Puffs of Cheese (Gougeres)

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Puffs of Cheese (Gougeres)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

  2. Combine the flour with the salt, black pepper, thyme, chili powder, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.

  3. Put the milk and butter in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. When the butter melts, turn heat to low. Add the seasoned flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Remove from heat.

  4. Separate the white and yolk from one egg, reserving the yolk for glazing.

  5. Put the dough into a large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed for one minute. Then beat in one egg and the extra egg white. Beat until completely absorbed into the dough. Then add the remaining 4 eggs, one at a time, waiting each time until the previous egg is completely absorbed. After all 5 eggs (plus the one egg white) have been incorporated, the dough should be smooth and satiny.

  6. Add the Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses, and pepperoni if you are using it. Incorporate thoroughly into the dough.

  7. Use a pastry bag to pipe dough onto 2 ungreased baking sheets. You can also drop dough from a teaspoon. For tiny puffs, mounds should be about 1/2 inch in diameter. From small appetizers, mounds should be 1 inch in diameter. For puffs large enough for filling, mounds should be 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Keep the size of the puffs uniform so they bake properly. Space puffs about 1 inch apart.

  8. Beat the remaining egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of milk to make a glaze. Lightly brush the tops of the puffs with glaze before baking. Sprinkle tops with your Parmesan cheese.

  9. Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 minutes (5 minutes for tiny puffs). Reduce heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Bake 10 minutes more for tiny puffs; 15 to 20 minutes longer for medium or large puffs, or until puffs are golden brown. Test by removing a puff from the oven and breaking it open. The inside should be baked through. If it is still doughy or wet, bake another 5 minutes.

  10. Remove pans from oven and leave puffs on pans until cool enough to serve.

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Different cheeses allow you to tailor the flavor of the puffs to pair with your meal. Use an assertive cheese to get a full flavor, and grate or crumble it so it mixes easily into the dough. In place of the Gruyere cheese, you can use Swiss, sharp Cheddar, Gouda, pepperjack, or even crumbled blue or feta cheese.

Instead of topping the puffs with grated Parmesan, you can use sesame or poppy seeds, or 1 tablespoon of coarse salt.

Make ahead

You can refrigerate the dough (covered) after step 6. Bring dough to room temperature, then proceed from step 7.

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