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Dry mustard is finely ground mustard seeds, the same stuff that forms the foundation of jarred mustard you might spread on your sandwich.

The difference is that the dry stuff hasn't been whipped with vinegar, salt and other spices yet. It's hardcore mustard, and therein lies its attractiveness.

If you'd like to add the flavor of mustard without adding extra liquid to a recipe, dry mustard is the way to go. If you would like mustard with kick -- sharp, pungent tanginess that could clear your sinuses in large doses -- dry mustard delivers.

Use dry mustard sparingly in deviled egg filling, use it to add punch to ham glaze or depth to a souffle. Or, just mix it with a little water to make a hot dipping mustard.

Grain and grape: Mustard gets its name from the Romans, who may have been the first to mix whole mustard grains with "must," grape juice used in cooking, to create "burning must," or mustum ardens. Eventually that got contracted into mustard.

Here, mustard supplies background tanginess in a batch of cheese puffs, or gougeres. Use any sharp, dry cheese you like. Make them single-bite-sized, or bigger to split and fill with slices of cured ham or a dab of flavored mayonnaise and a shred of chicken.

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>Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)

1 cup water

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into chunks

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, such as extra-sharp Cheddar, Gruyere or Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/8 cup thinly sliced scallions or chives

Heat oven to 400. Grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment.

In a medium pot, heat water, butter and salt together. When it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and add the flour, all at once.

Beat mixture with wooden spoon until it forms a single clump and starts pulling away from the sides of the pot. Dump it into a large bowl and let it cool for a few minutes.

While still warm, beat in the eggs one at a time. Using the wooden spoon or an electric mixer, beat the mixture until the egg is incorporated, then add another. Don't be alarmed if the dough becomes a lot of little lumps after an egg or two. It should come together and get stickier as you proceed.

After all the eggs are incorporated, the dough should be shiny. Stir in the dry mustard, chives, pepper and cayenne, if using. Then stir in cheese.

Using two spoons, drop pieces of dough onto the baking pans. A teaspoon or two will make singe-bite puffs. A tablespoon makes a two-bite puff (which, after baking, could also be split open and filled). Sprinkle a bit of extra shredded cheese on top if you like.

Bake until puffy and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. If you want extra crispy puffs, pierce each one slightly with a sharp knife about 5 minutes before they're done. That lets the steam out.

Best eaten the same day. Can be stored in airtight container and rewarmed in oven.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com