When not spoon-feeding sickies, fill savory puffs

If I’d heeded advice for stress-free appetizers in the latest A Fresh Approach column, unexpected illness wouldn’t have spelled such dire consequences for snacks served to Saturday’s Civil War fans.

By dire consequences, I mean there weren’t any that didn’t come from Costco. Although I felt a little sheepish, I took heart that guests probably didn’t want a sick person cooking for them, anyway.

If it seems like friends and co-workers also are dropping like flies — and you’re wondering when you’ll be next — seize a few moments of health and energy to squirrel away some of the things Jan Roberts-Dominguez suggested in last week’s column. Pop them in the refrigerator or freezer, which is a much shorter trip when you’re just getting back on your feet than a run to Costco.

Of course, there’s always a time and place, in Jan’s words, for “spoon-feeding” cream puffs. For me, that came a couple days into the weekend’s cold when I turned ravenous.

And because it was just my mom and husband around to contract germs, I washed my hands, stifled my sniffles and got to work on our most beloved special-occasion treat, on hold since the Civil War. We’ve made these savory versions of cream puffs (based on a catering recipe from the Pancake Mill restaurant in North Bend) for birthdays, baby showers, holiday cookie exchanges and as just a little pick-me-up.

After all, we couldn’t let the stainless-steel scooper purchased over the weekend for precise portioning to go unused. And if you bake off the choux pastry the night before your event, keep them — unfilled — in a sealed, plastic bag and then mix up the cheese filling separately and refrigerate, these aren’t quite such an elaborate undertaking.

As far as the time it takes to fill each one with a piping bag, I don’t have a very good estimate for that. We usually possess only enough willpower to fill just a few in between delicious bites.

Savory Puffs

Pastry:

3 ounces butter

8 ounces flour

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 eggs

6 ounces grated Swiss cheese

3 ounces finely minced, fresh onion

Filling:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1⁄4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1 teaspoon finely minced, fresh garlic

1⁄3 cup finely minced, fresh onion

2 tablespoons dillweed

1⁄2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)

1⁄2 teaspoon mustard powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine the butter and 8 ounces water in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Mix the flour and garlic powder in a small bowl. All a once, add flour mixture to saucepan and stir vigorously until it forms a stiff ball that pulls away from sides of pan. Remove from heat.

Transfer dough to bowl of a stand mixer and start beating on medium-low speed. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and add, 1 at a time, to dough; mix after each addition to incorporate. Mix in the cheese and onion.

Prepare a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment. Using a No. 60 scoop, drops mounds of dough about 1 inch apart onto prepared baking sheet. Or drop by tablespoon portions. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes; cool.

Meanwhile, in clean bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, Swiss cheese, garlic, onion and spices. Transfer to a piping bag or resealable, plastic food-storage bag. If using a plastic bag, cut one corner to create 1⁄8-inch hole.

When puffs are cool, use a sharp paring knife to cut a 1-inch circle from top of each; reserve tops. Pipe filling into each puff and replace tops.

Makes 30 puffs.

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