Gougeres (aka Cheese Puffs)

And... we are back to Downton Abbey season!

I feel oddly cautious about burning myself out like I did last year. A three course meal is a fair bit of work for each Sunday evening - obviously, it's not terrible work ... but work none the less. There were some great hits last year. Kerrianne still talks about those deviled eggs like angels made them.

So when I was thinking about this premiere episode I initially thought I would just make a dinner and a dessert. But this morning, I stumbled upon a recipe for gougeres and was shocked to realize that I had all the ingredients already on hand. By the way, gougeres are essentially just another way of saying cheese puffs.

I tried to take a decent picture of the crazy fluffy puffy insides... but it didn't work. So, you'll just have to take my word for it. Having now had them fresh from the oven, cold, and reheated... you should know that they are best served warm.

A few things about these gems:
(1) Super fast to whip up... and apparently easy to freeze for later parties.
(2) Very customizable. You can eat them as is... or cut them in half and stuff them with something. I opted for just a pinch of cayenne. The spice gives it a bit of a kick that is quite nice - but if I was going to stuff them I might hold the spice.
(3) Not challenging. Yes, there are some different "techniques" in here... but they aren't impossible and they are quite manageable.

Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
(Step 2) Heat the water, butter, salt, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. It won't take long - just be patient and don't turn the heat up.

(Step 3) Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. At first you'll think, nope this won't work... but it does. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.

(Step 4) Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly. It'll take a few minutes to get the mixture smooth but just have faith and keep mixing. If you are feeling lazy, you could use a food processor but honestly this isn't bad and I have a poor shoulder.

(Step 5) Add the ¾ of the grated cheese to the mixture and stir until well combined.
(Step 6) Use a small spoon and drop 1 tablespoon sized drops on the parchment lined cookie sheet. They won't expand much but leave about an inch or two between them. Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese.

(Step 7) Put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown. The puffs are best served warm, so if you have made them in advance, simply pop on a cookie sheet and reheat in a low oven for a few minutes.

Shopping List (based on this recipe)
½ cup water
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cayenne powder (or chili powder)
½ cup flour
2 large eggs
¾ cup grated cheese (traditionally Gruyere, but I used Pecorino Romano)

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