Pleasant Ridge Gougère
These savory little cheese pastries derive from the Burgundy region of France, and are reminiscent of popovers, with a nice crust on the outside, but a soft, buttery, and cavernous center. These are typically made with Gruyère cheese, but here we substitute one of our favorite American cheeses - Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Mike Gingrich of Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin.
THE PASTRY BATTER Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool the mixture slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and check the consistency of the batter. It should form a peak with a soft tip that falls over. If too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and if necessary, add the yolk. Lastly, mix in 3/4 cup of the Pleasant Ridge Reserve and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Incorporate the cayenne.
TO BAKE: Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a 3/8-inch round pastry tip, with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into tablespoon-size mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each to give the mixture room to spread during baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they puff and hold their shape.
Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. When the gougère are done, they should be a light golden brown color, like straw. When you break one open, it should be hollow and the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist to the touch. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougère while hot.
By Matthew Jennings, La Laiterie at Farmstead, Providence, Rhode Island