Knowing how to make a quick batch of these airy cheese puffs is one of the best skills a hostess can acquire. They're so simple, and they always get a big reaction from guests–especially when made with sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. Cambridge's own Julia Child popularized them in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and we feel it's time for a gougères revival!
Start to Finish Time:
Preheat oven to 425°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat butter and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high setting until butter is melted and mixture comes to a low boil.
Turn heat to low, add flour, and stir vigorously until mixture coheres and pulls away from pan sides, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat.
Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each. Dough will separate after each addition; keep stirring until it forms a smooth paste. Stir in cheese, nutmeg, and pepper (the dough should still be hot enough to melt the cheese).
Drop mixture in heaping teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet (for a prettier presentation, you can pipe the batter into 1-¼ -inch mounds). Bake until puffed and brown, about 30 minutes. For extra-crisp puffs, pierce each one with a knife, then turn off the oven and put the puffs back in for 10 minutes.