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Great gougères

I unfortunately keep forgetting to take photographs of things when I cook them, and my photographer husband hasn’t volunteered for the job either. I’ll catch on sooner or later.

Anyway, as a small gesture to my department prior to my upcoming departure (one more week, yay!), we threw a little cocktail party at our humble abode. One of my all-time favorite party snacks I learned from our dear friend Jim (he of the top-secret chocolate chip cookies, as well as dozens of other covetable recipes). The French call them gougères, but we generally refer to them as cheezy poofs, which is pretty much what they are — puffy, bready, cheesy goodness. Simply, you use a standard pâte-à-choux dough, mix in some yummy cheese and bake them off. They puff up, develop a nice crust yet stay airy and fluffy on the inside. Firm and semi-soft cheeses work best, as soft cheeses can prevent the dough from puffing, but otherwise anything goes. They are easy to make, especially in quantity, and wildly addictive. The recipe after the jump.

1 c. water
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 eggs, room temperature
approx. 2 c. grated cheese (suggestions: smoked gouda, parmigiano reggiano, cotswald or sharp Vermont cheddar)

Preheat oven to 350ºF and cover two sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper. In a saucepan, bring salted water and butter to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, dump in the flour all at once and stir to combine, until it forms a single ball of dough. There may be flecks of flour clumps still visible — don’t fret. Return the pan to a low flame until the moisture is evaporated off and a skin forms on the pan and the dough ball. Remove to a mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon or, if you have one, stand mixer on low, work the dough to allow steam to evaporate and the dough to cool a few minutes; add your garlic at this point. Once the dough is cool enough not to cook your eggs, add them one at a time. Do not add the next egg until the first is fully incorporated. It will look clumpy at first, but eventually will become smooth and batter-like. Gently incorporate all the cheese until smooth.

Using two tablespoons, scoop up the batter and form quenelles by scraping the dough from one spoon to the other. Drop them on the sheet pans, allowing about an inch between each one. Bake 12-16 minutes,  until they’ve puffed up, have formed a crust and are just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer them immediately to cooling racks. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.

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