When I was attending the Culinary Institute of America, learning the chef’s trade, one of my favorite lessons was how to make pate â choux, French for cream puff paste. It is a magical dough that can be made sweet (large cream puffs filled with sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream or ice cream), or savory (small puffs spit and filled with savory fillings or, my all-time favorite, with cheese added to the dough before being baked and served plain).
Cheese puffs are easy to make because the dough is cooked in one pot on top of the stove. The dough is spooned into a pastry bag (I use a self-sealing plastic bag with one corner cut off).
Then the dough is piped onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, baked in a hot oven and comes out in the form of dozens of golden brown, crisp, flaky cheesy puffs. They make fabulous appetizers or snacks.
One of the main ingredients, however, is wheat flour. So for our gluten-free household that meant a moratorium on cheese puffs. This holiday season I decided to experiment with a gluten-free version and, as the French would say, voilà! A slam-dunk on the first try. It turns out that the 1,2,3, Gluten-Free Flour works just as well as wheat flour, perhaps better.
Some tips for the first-time you make cream puff paste: Do follow the recipe exactly. Do not be afraid to dump the whole cup of gluten-free flour into the pan.
Stir well and it will become smooth. Don’t hesitate to break the first egg into the dough; just stir vigorously and it will be absorbed. The same holds true for all the other eggs.
And when you pipe the dough onto the parchment paper-lined pan, try to end up with a tip; it makes for a better shape. If you can’t master the perfect tip, no problem. The cheese puffs will still taste wonderful.
Be sure to pierce the baked puffs with the tip of a knife. This lets steam escape and insures the puff stays crisp.
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons butter or nondairy solid substitute, preferably Earth Balance
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground nutmeg, optional OR
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder, optional
- 1 cup 1,2,3, Gluten-Free Flour, fluffed and leveled
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup shredded (not finely grated) Parmesan
- In a 1½-quart heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, add water and bring to a boil. Add butter, salt and spices if using. Stir until butter melts.
- Remove pot from heat and add flour all at once. Using a large, sturdy spoon, stir briskly until a smooth dough forms. Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add one egg. Stir briskly until egg is completely absorbed. Repeat with remaining eggs, one at a time. Stir in Parmesan.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Transfer dough into a self-sealing plastic bag. Press to remove air and seal. Push dough to one corner. Cut off ¼ inch from one corner.
- Pipe dough 2 inches apart into 1½-inch circles, ending with a tip, onto parchment paper lined half sheet pans. Bake pans one at a time for 20 minutes, until puffs are golden brown and crisp.
- Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter, and pierce each puff with the tip of a knife. Repeat until all the dough is baked.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variations: Substitute shredded Swiss cheese for Parmesan. Split cooled puffs in half using a sharp serrated knife. Fill bottom with egg salad, tuna salad, onion dip, or spinach dip (recipes are in Cooking for Your Gluten Free Teen). Replace the top and serve immediately.
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