Thursday, August 25, 2011

All Puffed Up and Cheesy

I have never been crazy about cream puffs or ├ęclairs. The fluffy fillings just don’t do anything for me. But I do kind of like cheese puffs, which are made out of the same dough, pate au choux. It’s really a simple pastry dough that is cooked on top of the stove. It really doesn’t have a lot of flavor; it depends on either a sweet filling, drizzling with chocolate, or mixing in grated cheese for oomph. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had exciting cheese puffs either, usually made with a Swiss type cheese. I was dreaming about making puffs with Gorgonzola, an Italian blue cheese which gets my taste buds going. So when a good friend gave me an extremely generous portion of Stilton - an English blue cheese - this week, it was time to go forth and make puffs with big flavor.

I made them two ways, with and without chopped Kalamata olives. After taste testing the puffs, my tasters’ concensus was that the puffs with olives were more flavorful, so I suggest using olives. You can use a small spoon to scoop dough onto the baking sheet, but I prefer using a pastry bag and a large round piping tip. I’ve recently converted to using disposable bags; they’re not as eco-friendly as reusables but they don’t smell after repeated use either. Use half sheet pans if you have them, silpat liners are wonderful but parchment paper works very well too. Make sure all the cheese melts when stirring it into the warm dough; unmelted chunks will melt while baking and make holes in your puffs. Trust me on that.Cheese Puffs

1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup finely crumbled stinky blue cheese of your choice
½ cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

Heat oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring water, butter, salt and cayenne pepper to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat; boil until butter is melted. Off heat, stir in flour until completely blended. (Mixture should be consistency of play dough.) Return to heat, cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture comes together and begins to pull away from side of pan and leaves a film on bottom of pan while being stirred. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes.

Stir in eggs one at a time. The first one is difficult to stir in, but it becomes easier as the dough loosens up. Stir in cheese until melted. Stir in olives. Pipe dough about the size of a teaspoon onto baking sheets. Flatten the pointy tips with a wet finger. Bake one sheet at a time, 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Prick each puff with the tip of a knife to allow trapped steam to escape; bake 2 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a glass of wine or your favorite martini!

Best served the day of baking, or freeze and serve later. To reheat bake frozen at 350° for 10 minutes or until warmed and crisp.

Makes about 4 dozen.