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Cheese puffs perfect present for partygoers

Cheese puffs perfect present for partygoers

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It's holiday entertaining season, so we say bring on the fat and carbs!

After all, navigating the minefield of office and dinner parties and cookie swaps when you'd rather be on the couch with Netflix and a pint of ice cream requires a bit of comfort food (not to mention a stiff drink — but that's a recipe for another time).

Still, if you're entertaining, you can't totally slack off. You just need to marry your need for fatty comforting carbs with something dressy enough to serve in polite company.

So we give you blue cheese and mushroom cheese gougeres — or just call them cheese puffs. They're basically dough balls studded with chopped mushrooms and crumbled blue cheese. They are delicious right from the oven or at room temperature.

And as an entertaining bonus, they can be prepped ahead and frozen on the baking sheet. Just add a few minutes of time when you're ready to bake them.

Blue cheese and mushrooms not your style? Substitute pretty much any cheese you like, ditch the mushrooms, add fresh herbs or scallions. Whatever. It all works.

And while your mother-in-law or boss might judge you, we promise to look the other way if you feel the need to power eat these like popcorn during the party. Our gougeres are a judgment-free zone.

BLUE CHEESE AND MUSHROOM GOUGÈRES

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

8 ounces mixed mushrooms, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

Kosher salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

Ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Heat the oven to 400° F. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the mushrooms, shallots and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook until tender and lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 7 tablespoons butter, the water, milk a hefty pinch of salt and hefty pinch of pepper. Bring to a simmer, then add the flour all at once. Stirring with a wooden spoon, mix well and continue to cook until the mixture becomes a ball that separates from the pan, 1 to 2 minutes.

Scoop the dough ball into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between additions. Stir in the reserved mushroom mixture and the blue cheese. Scooping by the tablespoonful, place walnut-size dollops on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches of space between each.

Or, transfer the dough into a large zip-close plastic bag. Snip off a lower corner and pipe the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 45 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 5 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 70 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 3 g protein.

Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer for the Associated Press. She also owns the Crust and Crumb Baking Co. in Concord, New Hampshire.

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