After making various sweet cream puffs with pate a choux dough, I thought I'd make a switch to savory. I went with that classic American flavor combination of cheddar cheese and bacon.
Not very surprisingly, the fellas in my house are big fans of this flavor combo (around here, cheers ring out when I make twice baked potatoes with bacon, cheddar, and scallions) so I knew I'd have some ready taste-testers for this. I baked a handful for lunch the other day and froze the rest of the batch for another time. The ones I baked were readily polished off. These little mounds of sharp, cheesy, savory goodness are pretty easy to love. They're ever so crisp yet tender on the inside.
To make, it all starts with the familiar pate a choux dough. I added a pinch of paprika for a little extra color and you could really flavor it with a touch of whatever spice you want. The dough is quickly cooked on the stovetop and after the eggs are fully incorporated and the dough is ready, the savory part comes in. I added shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a few slices of finely chopped bacon. You could add some chives or scallions if you have it on hand.
This had me thinking back and remembering that I've actually made cheese gougeres before, years ago. One Christmas, I attempted them for a family Christmas party. What I remember was how bland those puffs turned out! For whatever reason that I can't remember now, I'd substituted a mild cheese for whatever it was I was supposed to use and I remember those gougeres had hardly any flavor as a result. Well, I'm happy to say I made up for the flavor department this time.
And speaking of Christmas, the holidays are coming up! That has me thinking of parties...appetizers, toasts, and nibbles. These are just the kind of little bites that would be great for a cocktail party, or they'd just make a nice appetizer to get a party started. These cheese gougeres would certainly go well with some bubbly (anybody else love the combination of salty potato chips with champagne?). I like to keep mini bottles of prosecco in my fridge for mimosas or whenever we might want to make a little toast to life. The next time I bake off the rest of this batch of cheddar-bacon gougeres, I'll be reaching for one of those bottles.
You can get roughly 30 or so bite-size cheese puffs from this recipe. I used 3/4 cup, or 3 ounces, of sharp cheddar cheese. I routinely buy lean center-cut bacon so that's what I have in the house and that's what I used for this recipe. I went with 4 slices of the center-cut bacon and chopped them finely.
I actually managed to pipe the dough into small mounds so they are about 2-bite nibbles per puff after baking.
As you might suspect, the dough won't be smooth with bacon bits and cheese swirled into the dough. I used a wet fingertip to tap the tips down and I topped this batch of puffs with a little bit of reserved cheddar cheese.
As I mentioned, I froze a bit more than half the batch for another day. To freeze, I piped the dough out into little mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze the dough until hardened, then pop them in a bag to bake (straight from the freezer, without thawing) another day. I'm looking forward to that!
I somewhat nervously wondered if I'd get any lift off of the puffs with all the heavy filling I added to the dough. As you can see, they do achieve lift-off but maybe not to the extent you might be used to seeing.
What you'll end up with is a very crisp cheese puff. The inside is just a bit soft and tender. There's a lot of air inside these so I think it's totally acceptable to eat at least 6...right?
I served these with lunch. Incidentally, I made beans from scratch for the first time (starting with dried beans) last week! I ended up making up bowls of stewed beans (with some turkey kielbasa pictured below) and putting these cheese puffs on the table.
I think these cheese puffs would be great with soup...or stew, or chili, and many other possibilities. But all in all, I kinda like them all by themselves...
Adapted from David Lebovitz
- Makes approximately 30 bite-size puffs -
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
3 tablespoons (40g) butter (I used unsalted but either is fine), cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Few dashes of paprika (optional; or use another spice)
1/2 cup (70g) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (3 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 slices cooked bacon (I used center-cut), finely chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Heat water, butter, salt, and paprika in a saucepan until butter is melted and mixture just comes to the boil. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan in a smooth ball. Continue to cook for another minute (to dry out the dough).
Transfer dough to a mixing bowl and let cool for 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, quickly stirring to incorporate. At first, the dough will look lumpy but keep stirring vigorously and you'll see it come together. You should have a thick, relatively stiff dough at this point.
Add cheese (you could reserve a bit to top the puffs with after piping, if you like) and bacon, stirring well to incorporate. Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip (or use a freezer bag and cut out a tip, or simply use 2 spoons). Pipe the dough, evenly spaced apart, into small (about 1-inch) mounds.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes until puffs are completely golden.
Serve puffs warm, if possible. The baked puffs can also be reheated in a low oven for 5-10 minutes.
To freeze, pipe dough onto a lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then store in a freezer bag. Bake from the freezer, without thawing, adding an extra minute or two to the bake time.