Beer and Cheddar Cheese Gougeres

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, water
1/2 cup beer (I used a saison and pilsner)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 ounces all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly ground pepper 

Egg wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch salt 

1. Preheat the oven for 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

2. In a  medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, beer and salt and bring to a slight boil. Once the mixture reaches the boil, immediately turn the heat off and pour in the flour; vigorously stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Continue mixing until the dough dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes. 

3. Transfer the dough into a bowl, allowing it to cool, slightly, for 2 minutes. In a small bowl, crack in one egg, being sure to remove any shells that might have fallen in. Pour the egg into the dough and mix---at first, the dough may seem too wet for the egg to incorporate, just keep going---it'll eventually come together. Repeat with the remaining 4 eggs. The dough should appear shiny, smooth and should fall back on itself, creating ribbons when you lift the wooden spoon. Lastly, stir in the finely grated cheese. 

4. You have two options here: In the past, I've always transferred the dough to a piping bag fitted with 1/2-inch tip and piped out tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart. On this particular day I wanted to go an easier route and used a 2-inch ice cream scooper, spacing the mounds of dough about 1-inch apart. (Some of the mounds were less than perfect so I used my finger to make the tops to look a bit more perfect.) 

5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg wash ingredients: large egg, milk and salt. Lightly brush the tops of each gougeres with the egg wash and then sprinkle each one with a dash of freshly ground pepper. 

6. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Decrease the oven's heat to 350 degrees F and open the oven so it sits ajar; bake for an additional 10 minutes. (This step will help dry out the gougeres a bit.) Another note: if your gougers are bigger in size than mine, you may need to bake them for more time. Serve warm. 

Makes 2 dozen small gourgeres