Bleu Cheese Puffs with Thyme
Serves 6-8 as a passed appetizer, approximately 40 puffs
Note: If you want to use a hard grating cheese instead of blue cheese, increase the water and butter by one tablespoon each.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup minus one tablespoon water
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of nutmeg (optional, but I like it)
¾ cup all-purpose flour, measured by dipping the dry measuring cup into the flour and mounding it, then leveling off to the top of the cup with a knife.
4 large eggs
4 ounces bleu cheese (such as St. Andre and Roquefort), in small pieces
1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water (to glaze the puffs)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium nonstick pot, stir the butter, water, salt, pepper, thyme, and nutmeg together over medium heat. Keep stirring as you bring the mixture to the boil – there should be boiling action in the middle of the surface as well as the edges. Take the pot off the heat and dump in all the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon or firm heatproof spatula until the flour is completely moistened by the liquid.
Return the pot to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes or so. The mixture will form a ball and look a little drier. You’ll start to see a little bit of a film covering the bottom of the pot around the ball of dough. Scoop the dough into a mixer bowl (either stand or handheld) and let it sit for a minute.
Start adding the four eggs, one at a time — using the mixer on low speed, combine until each egg is thoroughly incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed. It shouldn’t have moist puddles, but will look like a thick cake batter. Beat in the cheese until just combined.
At this point, you have two choices for shaping. With a large pastry bag and a large tip (either plain or star tip), you can pipe them into 1-1/2 inch mounds. Or, use a lightly-greased measuring tablespoon and scoop slightly rounded tablespoons onto the sheets. Make sure they’re at least an inch apart so they don’t fuse together as they bake. Lightly brush the top of each puff with the beaten egg/water mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the sheets in the oven halfway through. They should be lightly browned and puffed. If in doubt, leave them in the oven for another two or three minutes. They’re moist enough so they won’t get too dry.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the puffs cool for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a cooling rack so they don’t get moist and soggy underneath. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm – they’re easy to reheat in the oven, too.