Grandma lived on and off in Burgundy for 30 years and scarcely a week went by without one of the local cheese choux puffs so often served there with a glass of white wine. Cheese Puffs sometimes come stuffed with goat cheese or a creamy filling, and in one inventive version, the dough is spread flat and topped like a pizza with sliced tomato and herbs.
Makes about thirty 2½-inch/6-cm puffs
4 oz/110g coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 egg, beaten to mix with ½ teaspoon salt, for glaze
2 to 3 tablespoons finely grated Gruyère cheese, for sprinkling
For the Choux Pastry
1 cup/250 ml water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup/110 g butter, cut into cubes
1 cup/125 g flour
4 to 5 eggs
1. To make the choux pastry: in a large saucepan, combine the water, salt, and butter and heat gently until the butter is melted. Meanwhile, sift the flour onto a piece of parchment paper or foil. Bring the butter mixture just to a boil (prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough) Take from the heat and immediately pour in all the flour from the paper. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few moments until the mixture pulls away from the pan sides to form a ball. (For a few seconds the mixture will be lumpy but keep beating!). Beat for 30-60 seconds over a low heat to dry the dough and then take it from the heat. Whisk 1 egg with a fork until mixed until mixed and set aside for glaze. Beat the remaining eggs into the dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in enough of the reserved egg so the dough is shiny and falls from the spoon. If too much egg is added, the dough will be too soft and not hold its shape. Rub the top of the dough with butter to prevent a skin from forming and set aside until cool. Pâte à choux may be tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours before using.
2. To shape and bake the puffs: Heat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C and set a shelf in the center. Lightly butter a baking sheet. Cut the Gruyère cheese in tiny dice, or coarsely grate it, and beat it into the dough. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch/1.25 cm plain tip and pipe 1½-inch/4- cm mounds on the baking sheet, spacing them well apart as they will puff during baking. Alternatively, drop mounds of dough on the baking sheet using 2 small spoons. Brush the mounds with egg glaze and sprinkle with grated Gruyère.
3. Bake the puffs until golden brown and crisp, 25-30 minutes. The puffs often seem done too soon, so take out a puff and let it cool for a minute or two to check if it is ready before removing the rest. The puff should stay crisp on the outside and slightly soft inside. Gougères are at their best warm from the oven, but they can be baked ahead, or stored in the freezer and then reheated in a low oven.