After talking about flour for hours, the obvious thing to make to demonstrate how important gluten is would be bread, but when do I ever choose the obvious option? Instead, we’re exploring the world of savoury choux pastry with gougères (or cheese puffs). These golden pockets of air are the definition of more-ish, and when filled with fish pâte, or cream cheese and chives they are easily transformed into delicate canapés ideal for any finger-food occasion.
Being more of an eclair/profiterole girl myself, I had never thought to make savoury choux buns until I stumbled upon this recipe. In every case the technique for making choux pastry is the same: bringing water and butter to the boil, adding in flour and beating it thoroughly until the flour is ‘cooked off’ before adding the eggs in (one at a time) to form a smooth glossy paste. The only difference in this recipe is the addition of a cheese, both into the mix and sprinkled on top.
Using a cheese like Gruyère gives these puffs a slightly creamy, nutty flavour which is perfect as a base to add and build other flavours upon. A rich smoked salmon pâte would pair amazingly, or a slightly sweeter filling of caramelised onions and mushrooms would compliment the saltiness of the Gruyère perfectly. As I had decided to leave them empty, I experimented with using a sharper cheese: mature cheddar. This gave the finished puffs a deeper, ever so sweet flavour which is brought out even more by the pinch of mustard powder.
Whether you decide to fill these puffs or to leave them as they are, they will not be left rolling around for long.
RECIPE (Makes approx. 40)
- 250 ml water
- 100g salted butter
- 150g plain flour
- 180g Gruyère/Cheddar cheese (+ extra for sprinkling)
- 4 eggs
- A pinch of Mustard Powder
- A dash of salt and pepper
- 1 egg yolk for glazing
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°c/350 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4
- In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil.
- Add the flour, stirring very fast and take immediately off the heat. Beat until it starts to form a ball and pulls away from the side of the pan.
- Leave to cool slightly (so as to ensure the eggs are not cooked when added).
- Add the eggs, one by one, and beat after each addition until a smooth and glossy batter results.
- Finally add the cheese, mustard powder, salt and pepper.
- Fill a piping bag (fitted with a round tip) with the dough and pipe into small buns about 5cm/2in in diameter onto the baking tray, leaving at least an inch between each bun.
- Press down any peaks formed with a damp finger, and sprinkle some extra cheese (and some cayenne pepper if desired) over the top of each bun.
- Bake for 25 minutes approx or until puffy and golden.
- Serve immediately.
Notes: Adapted from Mimithorisson.com