Have I told you how much I love cheese? I didn’t? Really? That’s funny because it’s usually one of the first things I tell people when I first meet them (my name is irrelevant…my love of cheese is not). What about my almost obsessive love for bread? No? How about the fact that one of the main reasons I reverted from being a vegetarian is because I missed the smoky flavor of bacon? Not that either? Have we not been formally introduced? Because clearly you don’t know me very well…
Whenever I get the chance to combine my three loves into one dish, I am a very, very happy girl. So when Greyhound Celebrity told me about these cheese puffs she had at a dinner party, I was intrigued. That and the way she went on and on about how good they were (without having sneaked out one for me…great friend, huh?). We happened to run into the cook behind the puffs at a tango performance a few weeks later and I asked about the puffs. She said it was a simple pate a choux with thyme and Gruyere cheese sprinkled on top of each puff. My first thought: why just limit the cheese to the top of the puff? My second: can’t I add bacon?
With that in mind, I pulled out notes I had taken from a chef I dated a while back on making pate a choux. The good thing about dating a chef: great recipes and tips. The bad thing: some of them can be very anal in the kitchen. The notes almost filled up an entire spiral notebook and included his own writing. My only concern was that adding the cheese and bacon into the dough would lead to a soggy cheese puff, but I was definitely going to give it a try!
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into squares
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3 to 7 eggs (more about this below)
2-4 slices cooked bacon
1/4 to 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated (the amount depends on personal preference…remember, I love cheese)
1 tablespoon rosemary (optional), finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place 2 to 4 strips of bacon on it. Place it in the oven to cook. When it reaches a good crispiness, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature. Take each individual slice and place it between sheets of paper towel. Squeeze out as much grease as possible from each slice and then crumble it. Repeat this with each slice. I found 2 slices to be more than sufficient for this recipe, but it’s all about preferences. However, more than 4 would be too much. Set aside the bacon crumbles. Moving onto the cheese (mmmmmm….cheese), grate approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese and set this aside also.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, milk, salt and sugar over medium to medium high heat. Stirring frequently (and watching closely so the milk won’t boil over), bring the concoction to a low boil. Add the flour and vigorously stir the mixture until a soft dough is formed. Place the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the first egg. Turn the mixture onto a high speed (depending on the power of your mixer), making sure the egg incorporates into the dough. Add the second egg and continue to beat the dough. Briefly stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and add the third egg. Check to see if the dough is now more of a paste than a dough and if it looks “glossy” (his words, not mine). Basically, you want something that looks like really thick mashed potatoes that someone sprayed with lacquer. If the dough looks like this odd concoction I described, stop adding eggs. If not, keep adding eggs until it does (but no more than 7).
Once the desired dough consistency is reached, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold the bacon into the dough. Once the bacon is fully incorporated, sprinkle in the cheese and fold it into the dough. Scoop out this lovely mixture and spoon it into a pastry bag (fitted with whatever tip you want to use). Line 2-3 baking sheets (depending on how large you make each puff) with parchment paper and prepare to pipe out the dough. There are two options when piping out the dough: lengthwise (as shown above) or in circular puffs (see below). FULL DISCLOSURE: I tried both shapes and found the circular puffs came out MUCH better! The circular shape allows the dough layers to fold on top of each other, making the inside a lot flakier.
When all the dough has been piped out, place the baking sheets in the oven. In my notes, there isn’t a mention of how long (in minutes) to bake the puffs. Instead, it says to bake it until the puffs are golden brown and almost all of the moisture is baked out. For me, this took about 35-40 minutes, but ovens do vary. So after 20 minutes, start watching the puffs for color change and to see if any cracks in the puffs are starting to look dry. Let the puffs sit for about 10 minutes to allow to cool. Believe it or not, these puffs taste soo much better when cooled to room temperature (and only get better as it cools farther along).
For the next few days I will be away from my kitchen (and the Diva), but not away from my blog. But don’t worry, I already have several ideas for upcoming dishes, including another attempt at Root Source Challenge gold!