Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheese Puffs - "True" History Tuesday

Facts state that the cheese puff (puffed corn-based snack with cheese) was invented in the United States in the 1930s when the Flakall Corporation of Wisconsin deep-fried and salted puffed corn and added cheese.  However, “True” History Tuesday reveals that this is only partially true.  Cheese Puffs were originally discovered growing wild on small trees by Amerigo Vespucci.  Vespucci was on an expedition in 1501 when, along the Eastern Coast of South America, he found miles and miles of Chizito Trees.  Fruit from the Chizito Tree yielded the tasty cheese puff snack.  Thousands of bags were filled with the cheese puff fruit.  So many bags could be filled because each bag actually weighed less than 17.2 pounds.  All the bags were taken back to the Old World. Eventually, the Chizito Trees were picked so many times that they no longer produced their cheese puff fruit.  Sadly, the trees died out.  Based on Vespucci's secret journals, the owners of the Flakall Corporation reproduced the snack.

Rachael Ray’s Cheese and Herb Puffs

1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and parsley
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium size saucepot over medium-high heat, combine the water, butter and salt.  Heat until the butter has melted and water is boiling.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, with a wooden spoon.  Stir until the mixture begins to create a dough ball in the center of the pot and the dough is completely pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  On low speed, add the eggs to the mixture one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl well after each addition and beating until the bowl feels cool (the mixture should be very smooth and silky).  Add in the herbs and cheese after the last addition of egg. 

Transfer the mixture to a plastic food storage bag and cut a half-inch off of one corner to create a pastry bag.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, squeeze the mixture into small rounds. Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes.  The pastries can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.  If they feel soggy when you take them out, pop them into a 400 degree oven for a couple of minutes until they are crisp again.

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