Asiago Cheese Puffs
I started out 2011 learning to make pate a choux in order to make cream puffs, so it’s fitting that I’m devoting some time in early 2012 to their savory cousins – cheese puffs!
Cheese puffs, called gougères if you want to be all fancy and French about it, are just as easy to make as sweet pate a choux. Melt some butter, stir in some flour, eggs and cheese, and voilà! Cheese puffs.
A lot of recipes call for piping the dough into mounds before baking, but thanks to baking genius Dorie Greenspan I know of a shortcut – use a cookie scoop! No piping bag mess, which makes these easy puffs even easier to bake.
While you can use a variety of different hard cheeses to make cheese puffs, I opted to use asiago because it’s one of my favorites. Let me tell you, once these heavenly cheesy bites started baking my house smelled AMAZING. And once out of the oven, they reminded me of a lighter version of the asiago bagels I like to get from a certain bakery chain whose name starts with a “P” and ends with “anera”.
The cheese puffs are crisp on the outside and a bit creamy / chewy on the inside, making them delightful to eat on their own. They’re great for pairing with soups and salads, too.
If you’re entertaining you can step it up a notch: bake larger cheese puffs, slice them in half and stuff with deli meat, lettuce, a smear of spicy mustard and maybe an extra thin slice of asiago. In no time you’ll have mini sandwich sliders – which I happen to think would make excellent Super Bowl food.
Asiago Cheese Puffs
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes about 18-20 golfball-sized puffs
Any pate a choux puffs are best enjoyed warm within a few hours of baking. They lose their crisp exterior when stored. According to baking genius Dorie Greenspan, you can make and scoop/pipe your puffs ahead of time, freeze, and then bake straight from the freezer when ready to serve. Cheese puffs can also be re-crisped in a 325F oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1/4 teaspoon salt
big pinch of chili powder
1/2 cup AP flour
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
3/4 cup grated asiago cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
Heat water, butter, salt and chili powder in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter has melted, using a spatula, stir in the flour all at once until a thick paste-like dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Cool for 2 minutes.
Briskly beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next, until dough is smooth and shiny. Dough may look lumpy at first – keep stirring and it will smooth out.
Set aside about 1/4 of the grated asiago. Add the remaining cheese and chives to the pate a choux dough and stir until well-mixed.
Place tablespoon-sized mounds of dough on the prepared baking sheet, evenly-spaced about 1 inch apart. (Use a 2 TBS cookie scoop to make bigger puffs for mini sandwiches.) With a wet finger, smooth down any peaks on the mounds of dough. Sprinkle each mound of dough with a little bit of the reserved cheese.
Bake puffs at 425°F for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes, until puffs are golden brown all around.
Serve immediately. Alternately, store in an airtight container at room temperature and re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.