Cheese Puffs or Gougères, as they are called in French, are a classic appetizer of breakfast and brunch item. To make them you just need to add cheese to pâte à choux, which is the pastry used in traditional French desserts such as Eclairs and Profiteroles. My version of this classic is lighter but succulents. I use gruyère, mild cheddar or gouda depending on the circumstances. For a Sunday breakfast or Ladies’ brunch I would suggest you use gruyère. It does however happen, that my kids would wake up on a Saturday morning and declare that they absolutely need to have cheese puffs…and now. In these cases, I would use a less pretentious type of cheese, such as gouda or cheddar which I always have in my fridge and which are more popular with kids. Bottomline, the choice of cheese is a question of taste, the pâte à choux will be like a canvas for the flavor you would like to introduce with your choice of cheese.
I usually make 12 big puffs and they are typically consumed straight from the muffin tin without ever getting a chance to cool down. But if you manage to save some, they are great served for breakfast or brunch. The mini cheese puffs can also be served as an elegant appetizer on a evening gathering. To make those, you can either use a mini muffin tin or pipe the pâte à choux with a pastry bag over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Yields 12 big or 24 small puffs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil (corn oil)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white peeper
5 regular eggs (or 4 extra large)
1 eggs, bitten for brushing
150g gruyère, mild cheddar or gouda cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 210C/425F
Brush with oil a 12 pieces muffin tin or a 24 pieces mini muffin tin.
Make the pâte a choux: In a medium nonstick pan combine the milk, oil, salt and white pepper and heat on medium fire until scalded. Dump all the flour in the pot at once and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts coating the bottom of the pot, about 2-3 minutes. Throw the mixture in the bowl of a food processor, start the engine and add the eggs and the cheese, reserving about 3 Tbs of the cheese for topping the puffs. Process for 30 seconds until all ingredients are perfectly combined.
Bake: Spoon the pâte a choux in the muffin tin. Dip your finger tip in oil or water and smooth the top of each puff by pressing on it gently. Brush the puffs with the eggs wash and sprinkle the reserved cheese on top. Bake without opening the oven for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. As they cool down, the puffs will deflate slightly, that is perfectly normal.
Serve them warm or at room temperature for breakfast, brunch or as an appetizer at a dinner or cocktail party.