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After just one of these crisp, melt-in-your-mouth snacks you'll never want another of those bright orange cheese puffs (gougeres). The dough can be made ahead of time or the shortbreads baked a day ahead and stored in an airtight container, making them ideal for parties.
Makes: 30 to 40 puffs
Time: 30 minutes


8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
2 cups grated Emmental, Gruyere, cheddar cheese, or other semihard cheese
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the butter, cheese, flour, egg, salt, and cayenne into a food processor and pulse, just until the mixture resembles coarse meal; do not overprocess. (You can also use a pastry blender or a fork to cut the mixture to the same consistency.) Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until you're ready to bake the puffs or proceed.

2. Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Put the balls 2 inches apart in rows on a nonstick or lightly greased baking sheet. Slightly flatten each ball with your fingers.

3. Bake until the pastries are puffed and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, then sprinkle with paprika and serve.

Pecorino Cheese Shortbread. Add Italian sheep cheese for great, tangy flavor: Substitute 1 cup each grated pecorino and Parmesan for the Emmental.

Herbed Cheese Shortbread. A simple addition: Add 1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs like parsley, chives, dill, and/or basil, with a little tarragon.

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