CASA GRANDE -- Gougères are traditional puffy French cheese rolls that are light, airy and irresistible. But despite their French origins and somewhat fancy-sounding name, they’re so easy to make that a child can do most of the work.

And for our latest Simple or Not Kitchen video, we put two of my neighbors — 12-year old Matthew Villa and his 7-year-old brother Colin — to work making the cheesy rolls.

Gougères are made with a modified choux pastry — pâte à choux — a delicate pastry base made from eggs, water and flour. The dough, which can be made slightly sweet or savory, is also used to make eclairs, cream puffs and other pastries.

What makes them unique is that eggs and steam, rather than baking powder, serve as the chief rising agent, which gives the resulting baked goods their light and airy texture.

With a hollow interior, baked goods made with a choux pastry can be filled with just about anything. Sweet choux patries are often used to make cream puffs. Savory ones can be filled with ham, mushrooms or other ingredients.

Because they’re so simple and versatile, I often make gougères on Sunday mornings. They go very nicely with poached eggs. But traditionally, they’re made as an appetizer.

Choux translates literally to “cabbage” in French and choux pastry was likely named because in its baked form, it can resemble cabbage.

But “mon petit chou,” which can be translates as, “my little cabbage” or “my little cream puff,” is also a common term of endearment for children. I often called my own kids “mon petit chou” when they were little, although they don’t appreciate that nickname now that they’re grown.

Typically, gougère rolls are made with Gruyère cheese, but (surprisingly), not everyone in my family likes Gruyère, so I often use a combination of Parmesan and cheddar. Any cheese that suits any particular taste may be used, but it should be a style that melts pretty easily and should be shredded before it’s mixed into the dough.

I put a touch of paprika and pepper in my gougères but those ingredients are optional and not traditional.

When Colin and Matthew made gougère for Simple or Not Kitchen, they devoured the first batch pretty quickly and requested that we make another batch.

Easy gougères

½ cup unsalted butter (one stick)

½ cup milk plus ½ cup water, combined

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs

6 ounces shredded cheese (Gruyère is traditional, but a combination of cheddar and Parmesan works nicely too)

In a sauce pan, bring milk, water, butter and seasonings to a simmer over medium heat.

Add flour all at once and stir. Mixture will eventually form a paste or a ball. Continue cooking for about three minutes, stirring and folding the paste constantly.

Transfer to a mixing bowl or stand mixer. Once paste is no longer steaming, add eggs one at a time and blend into the paste by hand or using beaters, making sure egg is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next egg.

Add cheese and mix well.

Transfer dough to a pastry bag or a large plastic freezer bag with the tip cut off.

Using a circular motion, pipe dough onto greased baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Makes about 12

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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