For your Kwanzaa celebration or any other holiday you’re hosting, add this homemade Pimento Cheese to your appetizer board to impress and delight your guests. Pimento cheese is a southern classic and it’s especially delicious when paired with crostini, or for this recipe, French cheese puffs. Both the pimento cheese and the cheese puffs can be made days in advance and then assembled right before guests arrive for easy entertaining. For a celebration with fabulous flavor, serve with a glass of California Chardonnay or California sparkling wine.
- 8 ounces (227 grams) sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces (114) medium cheddar cheese
- 8 ounces (227 grams) full fat cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons (39 grams) mayonnaise
- 4 ounces (114 grams) pimentos, drained
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 tablespoons (114) grams unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour sifted
- 4 large (200 grams) eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup (37 grams) finely grated, Gruyere Cheese
- 1/3 cup (37 grams) finely grated, White Medium Cheddar Cheese
Gougère Egg Wash
- 1 large (50 grams) egg
- 1 teaspoon water
Grate the sharp cheddar cheese and the medium cheddar cheese and place them in a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, the mayonnaise, and the pimento and mix together with a wooden spoon.
Add the smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and mix in the seasonings. Taste the pimento cheese and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Since the dish is already a little salty from the cheese be careful with the amount of salt you add to your dish is not too salty.
Store the pimento cheese in the refrigerator until ready to use. If serving it as part of an appetizer spread remove it from the refrigerator an hour before serving so it comes to room temperature and spreads easily
Making the Pate a Choux Dough
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two half-baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour into a bowl or onto a piece of wax paper. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl.
Place the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and make sure all the butter is melted. Remove the pot from the heat and dump in all the flour all at one and quickly stir with a wooden spoon until there are no bits of flour left. You do not want any lumps of flour.
Return the saucepan to medium heat and continue to cook the choux while stirring vigorously. The mixture will sizzle as it continues to cook, and a thin layer will form on the bottom of the pan. This step is to cook the protein in the flour and cook some of the moisture in the choux. The dough will become a smooth ball.
Put the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and with the paddle attachment beat on medium speed for 1 minute to cool the choux pasty. Reduce the speed to low, add one egg and increase the speed to medium and beat until the egg is incorporated. Repeat with each egg. After adding the second egg, stop the mixer and scrap the bottom and sides of the bowl. After the last egg is added beat the dough on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes until it is smooth.
To test the dough stop the mixture, unhook the paddle attachment, push it into the dough and then slowly pull up. If the dough forms a V-shape at the bottom the attachment the choux is ready. Add the paprika and mix for another 10 seconds to incorporate.
Sprinkle all of the cheese on top of the dough and mix by hand with silicone spatula. Scrape the sides and bottom the bowl to ensure all the dough and cheese are mixed together.
Baking the Gougères (Cheese Puffs)
Whisk the egg with the water to make the egg wash.
Use a 1-1/2-inch cookie scoop to scoop the choux dough onto the baking sheet about 2-inches apart. For a half-baking sheet there will be 15 on each sheet. Brush each gougère with the egg wash. Bake one baking sheet at a time.
Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F without opening the oven and bake for another 15-17 minutes until choux buns are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and place the pan on the cooling rack. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F and wait for it to reach full temperature before baking the second pan.
The gougères are best serve warmed. If making them for a party they can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and warm the gougères for 5-7 minutes and until they are warm and crisp.
Freeze baked gougères in a single layer on a sheet pan, then place them in a freezer bag. Reheat straight from the freezer in a 350 degree F oven until they are warm and crisp.
Cut a gougère in half and fill with 2 teaspoons of the pimento cheese. Top with the other half of the gougère. As an option sprinkle chopped chives or finely chopped parsley on top of the cheese filling before topping with the other half of the gougère.
For the pimento cheese, sharp cheddar is a must, but you can use Monterey Jack in place of the medium cheddar. Do not use packaged shredded cheese for this recipe. Packaged shredded cheese comes with an anti-caking agent that keeps the cheese from sticking together (and a little dry) and you won’t get the same creamy texture.
If you don’t have milk, you can replace the milk with water and use a total of 1 cup water. You can use different cheeses for the gougères, but if serving them with the pimento cheese I recommend mild cheeses because of the sharp cheddar in the pimento cheese.
*Recipe by Cheryl Norris, Bakes by Brown Sugar