Savory Custards Are the Place to Party

With winter break and the new year approaching, I think it’s safe to say that it’s official party time. Whether you are arranging snacks or offering them, these occasions require a constant rotation of snacks. For the holidays in December and beyond, savory custards are a simple and versatile snack guaranteed to be an absolute hit.

Choux pastry, custard paste, or choux pastry pate, is a lightly seasoned confectionery shell made with a few simple ingredients: butter, milk or water, salt, flour, and eggs. (For more custard information, a recipe, and details on how to make custard, read here .) With these humble staples, you can make the impressive dough that éclairs and puff pastries are made from. But why stop there? Choux pastry also makes great savory snacks (and great linguistic material for silly cooking puns). Because the dough is relatively soft, you can pair it with just about anything. It’s a flavor enhancer, just like a cracker delivers cheese and olives to your mouth. Except amateur. The steam pocket that forms in the center is part of the sleeve. Unlike a flat cracker or baguette slice, custard puffs are hollow. Open one up and you have the perfect little food purse to fill with delicious morsels.

Make a sugar-free choux pastry – since this is a savory snack, it’s best not to add sugar this time. You can always fill the shell with a sweet center if you change your mind later. Prepare the dough with milk or water as a liquid, remembering to clean the mixing bowl when you add the eggs. After you have prepared the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form the dough into small balls with a spoon (or a piping bag if you have one). Bake according to instructions. The dough expands in the oven to about three times its original size, creating the desired air pocket in the center. This airy pocket will hold the magic of the snack.

Fill them with something delicious like Swedish meatballs, caramelized onions and goat cheese, or roast pork, pickles and carrots. Try smoked salmon and dill cream cheese, chicken Caesar salad, or mashed potatoes with bacon. Watch football with a plate of choux pastries stuffed with buffalo chicken and celery, or serve it with a plate of chili. For holiday parties, open each puff and prepare it for guests with a slice of cheese and a slice of salami. Or just serve a bowl of choux pastry along with cheese and cold cuts and let your guests make their own combinations.

For a classic cheesy snack, try gougère . Simple, tasty and the same preparation as in the simple version, but with a cup of grated cheese added to the dough at the very end. Spoon the gougères onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes. They will be a beautiful golden color and fluffy, although they may be a little flatter than regular choux pastry. The cheese may weigh down the dough a little, depending on the type you use, but it doesn’t matter; what it lacks in height, it makes up for in taste.

Baked, refrigerated unfilled custard puff pastries can be frozen for about three months and reheated in a 350°F oven for about 5-10 minutes. Choux’d you want to bake them fresh, you can also make the batter up to four days in advance. Store in the refrigerator, covered well. When you need it, scoop and bake as you normally would, 5-10 minutes more, or until crispy. Cool them completely before packing them if you are bringing them to a party, or see if the host will let you bake the dough there. They will be very fresh for the festivities and are likely to be the star of the cheese plate.


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