Asparagus Gougères

makes about 70

*recipe can easily be halved

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed 

1 cup water

4 ounces (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter

Pinch of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 extra large eggs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, about 5 ounces

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375º F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the asparagus into 1/4-inch rounds.  Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the asparagus and simmer until just tender, about 1 minute.  Drain immediately and shock the asparagus in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Once cool, drain again and pat dry on paper towels; set aside

In a medium saucepan bring water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring until butter is melted.  Add flour all at once and cook over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and excess moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes.  

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds to cool slightly.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  (Batter will appear to separate at first, but will then become smooth).  Mixture should be stiff enough to hold soft peaks and fall softly from the spoon.  Stir in asparagus, cheese, and chives.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip with batter and pipe about 35 mounds onto each prepared baking sheet, or spoon mounded tablespoons 1/2-inch apart onto each sheet.  Bake, switching positions halfway through baking until puffed, golden, and crisp on the outside, 25 to 30 minutes total.  Serve the gougères warm.  Gougères can be made ahead and cooled completely uncovered, then chilled in sealed bags for 2 days.  Or they may be frozen for 1 week.  Reheat uncovered in a 350º F oven for 10 minutes if chilled and 15 minutes if frozen.  Enjoy!

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