Pâte à Choux is the pastry base for a number of sweet cream-filled treats, but it’s often overlooked as a stage for more savory flavors.

Savory choux detail

In Germany, I remember running into “cream puffs” with such savory fillings, generally built on Frischkäse, essentially anything along the lines of cream cheese, quark, or soft chevre. Sometimes the filling is little more than whipped butter, an egg, and cheese. It’s possible for the filling to involve cured ham, and I’ve seen some recipes that have them topped with a bit of extra soft cheese and some variety of caviar. Occasionally such treats are served to guests at the home of a particularly generous host.

Maybe due to the weight of all that cream and butter, they are often described as “hearty” (Herzhaft), though sometimes as “pikant” (savory).

I went the savory route, with American style cream cheese, parmesan reggiano, thinly sliced scallions, garlic, pepper, and a tiny splash of whiskey for aroma. In an ideal world, I should have used cognac, but none was handy Sunday morning. It worked well enough, and I might even specifically seek out that peaty character again.

Hiromi was fond of the blue cheese gougères we recently indulged in at Pair Restaurant, a tasting-friendly small plates-focused restaurant hidden away in the Ravenna area in Seattle. I thought it would be fun to make gougères at brunch, but then I remembered I had a package of cream cheese in the refrigerator crying for attention, and found myself distracted by the temptation of something creamy surrounded by that crisp choux.

The biggest difference is that gougères have the cheese incorporated into the choux pastry, whereas in savory cream puffs the cheese is a filling. While I’m attracted to the simplicity of gougères, I just can’t help but indulge in the tempting contrasts of savory cream-cheese filled puffs.