Spicy Cheese Puffs

This recipe marries classic French pâte à choux pastry with masa harina to create spicy nibbles that you’ll find are extremely easy to devour. We like to keep these puffs on the smaller, “snackable” side, since the addition of masa harina adds a bit of heft. 

Prep
20 mins
Bake
35 to 40 mins
Total
1 hr 15 mins
Yield
64 small puffs
Spicy Cheese Puffs - select to zoom
Spicy Cheese Puffs - select to zoom
Spicy Cheese Puffs - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To make the pastry: Combine the water, butter, and salt in a large saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil.

  2. Weigh your flours; or measure by gently spooning into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour and masa harina all at once, stirring vigorously with a sturdy spoon or stiff spatula.

  4. Return the pan to medium heat briefly, stirring until the mixture smooths out and starts to steam; this should take less than a minute. The batter will be very thick and shiny.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and let the thick batter cool, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes. It'll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds; if you have a digital thermometer the temperature should be below 125°F.

  6. To finish the pastry by hand: Once cool, mix the eggs into the warm mixture in the saucepan one at a time. Be sure to incorporate each egg fully before adding the next one; the mixture will slosh around a bit initially, but will come together to form a smooth, shiny paste after a dozen or so stirs. Mix for about 2 minutes after adding the last egg.

  7. To finish the pastry with an electric mixer: Transfer the warm batter to a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time on medium speed, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat for about a minute after adding the last egg.

  8. To finish the puffs: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

  9. Add the spices and cheese to the batter, stirring to incorporate.

  10. Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the prepared pans; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here.

  11. Alternatively, pipe the pastry onto the pans. Transfer the prepared batter to a piping bag with a 1/2” to 3/4" diameter round tip. Pipe into mounds about 1" in diameter (the pastry will double in volume as it bakes), leaving 2" of space between them.

  12. Bake the puffs for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, until the puffs are a medium golden brown. Don't open the oven door while they're baking.

  13. Remove the puffs from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Puffs are best served the same day they’re baked.

  14. Storage information: Store any leftover puffs, well wrapped, in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw frozen puffs at room temperature, then rewarm in a 300°F to 350°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Masa harina (translation: dough flour) is flour made from corn that’s been soaked in a solution of slaked lime (nixtamalized) to loosen its hull and soften it, which improves its texture and helps release its nutrients. The soaked corn is ground into a paste (masa), dried, and then ground again, this time into a fine flour. Due to the corn’s special treatment, neither cornmeal nor corn flour are good substitutes for masa harina.