"Light, airy, cheese puffs are a versatile addition to a meal or appetizer plate. Tiny, they're like soup nuts. Larger, they pair well with beer or wine. Even bigger, they can be split and filled with ham, chicken, tuna salad, or even more cheese! Different cheeses change the character, so you can tailor the flavor to fit the with your meal. Use an assertive cheese so you get a full flavor, and grate or crumble it so it mixes easily into the dough. These are easier to make than the recipe sounds, yet the result looks impressive enough that you can tell your friends you slaved over them."
Combine the flour with the salt, black pepper, thyme, chili powder, and cayenne in a bowl. Set aside.
Put the milk and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the butter melts, turn heat to low. Add the seasoned flour all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Break and separate one egg. Reserve the yolk for glazing and add white with the last egg in the nest step.
Put the dough into a large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed for one minute. Then beat in the eggs one at a time. Do not add the next egg until the dough becomes smooth and the previous egg is completely absorbed. After all 5 eggs plus the one egg white have been incorporated, the dough should be smooth and satiny.
Add the Parmesan and the grated cheese of your choice, and the pepperoni or salami, if you are using it, to the dough and beat in thoroughly.
NOTE: You can refrigerate dough at this point to bake later. Just bring it back to room temperature before baking.
Use a pastry bag to pipe dough onto 2 ungreased baking sheet or drop from a teaspoon. For tiny puffs, make mounds about a half inch in diameter; for small appetizers, make mounds about an inch in diameter, and for puffs large enough for filling, make mounds about an inch and a half in diameter. Whichever size you choose, keep them uniform so they’ll bake properly. Leave an inch between each puff.
Beat the remaining egg yolk with the 2 tablespoons of milk. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops to glaze.
Sprinkle with topping of your choice.
Bake for 10 minutes (5 minutes for tiny puffs). Reduce heat to 300. For tiny puffs, bake 10 minutes more, for medium and large, bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until puffs are golden brown.
Remove one from oven and break open to be sure inside is cooked. If it is still wet and doughy inside, bake another 5 minutes. If it’s cooked through, remove pans from oven and leave puffs on pans to cool enough to serve.