Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Cheddar Cheese Puffs

If you've been around these parts once or twice this will not come as news to you: I hate to bake bread. Well, I've never really said it in those terms before, but it's true. Yeast scares me. She doesn't play nicely, and I keep my distance from her at the playground. There are too many rules: foam, knead, rise, steam. Baking is something I love to do, but I'd rather deal with baking powder, egg whites and cake flour.

When I run across a recipe that ends up as bread but doesn't start out as yeast the beast I of course jump right on it. And if it involves cheese? As in bread and cheese omigod melty oozy come to mama, you sweet thing. Yeah. 'Nuff said. These puffs are from what I can tell a basic
pate a choux recipe, with the addition of cheese. I can't say that all of mine were perfectly puffy because I'm not an expert piper, and I tried to cheat by using a snipped Ziplock bag. It was a perfectly fine method for making puffs on a Thursday night at home, but if I was making them for guests I'd definitely use a pastry bag.

And speaking of making them for guests - what an ideal appetizer with a glass of cold white wine. Stuffed, unstuffed, fresh out of the oven or served after staying warm in the kitchen they are perfection. They are bread that doesn't need to be kneaded. And they are this yeast-a-phobe's new best friend.

Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Cheddar Cheese Puffs
Adapted from The New York Times

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Makes about three dozen puffs.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
1.5 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1.5 cups shredded, sharp, cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, butter and salt, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until dough pulls away from sides and forms a lump. Set aside to let cool.
2. After about five minutes, add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each. Dough will look slippery and glossy with each egg, but make sure you stir until it comes together before adding the next egg. Stir in mustard, cayenne and cheese. Your dough will be very sticky.
3. Drop large teaspoons of dough onto prepared pans. Or use a pastry bag or plastic sandwich bag with one corner cut off to pipe small mounds. Leave half an inch between puffs.
4. Bake about 12 minutes, then rotate pan and bake another 12 minutes. Serve immediately, or keep hot in oven that has been turned off, and the door left open.