Monday, October 1, 2012

Cheddar Chive & Thyme Gougères

The classic French cheese puff, Gougères are the savoury cousin to sweet cream filled profiteroles. Crisp on the outside, airy on the inside and loaded with flavour, these warm cheesy treats are often made with Gruyère cheese, but Comté, Emmentaler and sharp Cheddar are also delicious. The perfect Thanksgiving appetizer, the choux dough for these Cheddar Chive & Thyme Gougères can be prepared ahead of time and simply chilled in a pastry bag until just before guests arrive. Piped onto parchment lined baking sheets and baked for half an hour, these appertif-sized Cheddar Chive & Thyme Gougères are best served piping hot from the oven. Some like to fill them, or split them in half with a slice of dry-aged ham, but I love them just as they are.

Cheddar Chive & Thyme Gougères
Makes 4 dozens

1 cup whole milk
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup gated sharp Cheddar or Gruyere, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dry English mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tsp finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish

Egg wash topping:
1 large egg
pinch salt
grated cheddar or pecorino and chopped chives for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and butter over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from burning. When the mixture is simmering and the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the flour, salt, and pepper all at once. Stir well with a wooden spoon to combine. Return the pan to medium heat and stir hard until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan, and dries out a bit, about two minutes.

Transfer the mixture into a bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for a minute to cool the dough slightly. Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk with a fork. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each one. Remove the bowl from the mixer base. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cheese, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, cayenne and fresh thyme, and mix until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a large plain tip. The mixture will still be warm.

Pipe the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets in mounds about 1 inch in diameter, leaving a couple of inches between them. Smooth out any points with a wet finger. For the topping, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with pinch of salt. Lightly brush the egg wash over each mound and sprinkle each with extra cheese. Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese, chopped chives and crumbled thyme, if desired.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the gougères are well puffed. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until puffed and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes more. Serve the gougeres piping hot as soon as they come from the oven. Gougères are best served immediately but they can be re-warmed in the oven at 350°F for 5 minutes. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.