Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Elegant Profiteroles: a Superb Holiday Dessert

The French have a charming expression, on profite, as in on profite du soleil (The sun is out? Drink it up!) to signify an existing situation of which one must take advantage I regard the upcoming holidays as such an occasion.  Profiteroles are one of those wonderful desserts that look much more difficult to do than in reality--as long as you have solid instructions to follow.  They are simply cream puffs filled with ice cream, usually vanilla and topped with a dark chocolate sauce.  They can be regarded as ice cream sandwiches taken to lofty heights.

Caramel-laced pecan vanilla ice-cream on the left and two coffee ice-creams on the right

I used Stephanie Jaworski's tested recipe (please read her recipe completely before making profiteroles), because it stood out from all the others I researched on the web by being thorough, clear, and eminently doable.  These profiteroles were the best I ever had, including the ones I enjoyed in Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, or in our favourite French restaurant in Greenwich Village.  And better than the ones I used to bake.  The pâte à choux is perfectly thin, crisp, with a slight inside moisture while the warm, dark-chocolate ganache is beyond dreamy, loaded with butter and cream.  In case you are wondering, we eat ours with a spoon!

If I had this recipe years ago, I am sure my first attempt at making cream puffs would not have come out as flat cookies.  Cream puffs can be stuffed with either sweet or savoury fillings--creamed chicken or seafood is good--and be made as tiny or as substantial as the occasion calls for.  Go ahead and make some this holiday season and on profite!

Piled into a pyramid, they make a stunning presentation

Makes 12 medium (approx. 2" in diameter) profiteroles

  • Flour, all purpose, 1/2 cup*/65 grams
  • Sugar, white, granulated, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp
  • Water, 1/2 cup*/120 ml
  • Butter, sweet, 4 tablespoons/57 grams
  • Eggs, large, 2, lightly beaten
  • 1/8 tsp salt and 1 large beaten egg for glaze.
  • Chocolate, dark, cocoa content 64% or higher, 4 oz/115 grams, broken into pieces
  • Cream, heavy, 1/2 cup*/120 ml
  • Butter, sweet, 1 tablespoon/14 grams, for the ganache
  • Ice cream, homemade or an excellent brand, vanilla or coffee are popular, but most flavours would work.
*American size, that is, 8 oz cups.

Make the choux pastry as follows:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/205 degrees C. Have close by water, butter, sifted flour/salt/sugar, and beaten eggs.

Bring the butter and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Take the pot off the heat and stir in the flour.

Put pot back on low heat and mix for a few minutes until dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Beat dough off the heat until it is lukewarm.

Beat in eggs. I first use a whisk.

Then switch to a wooden spoon to get a smooth batter.

Spoon or pipe on parchment-lined baking pans.  When spooning, it is best to layer smaller amounts so as to increase the height of each puff--first put one slightly rounded teaspoonful of the batter for each of the twelve profiteroles, then put a second teaspoon of it on top. Distribute any remaining batter over the twelve profiteroles as evenly as possible via a final layer.  With a pastry brush or with a fingertip, lightly paint each one with beaten egg.

Choux pastry needs to be baked twice--initially at 400 degrees F/205 degrees C for fifteen minutes, then at 350 degrees/177 degrees C for an additional 30-40 minutes.  Test one by splitting it--the insides need to be mostly dry and the outside crisp and a deep golden brown.  Then the oven heat is turned off, and they are left inside with the oven door cracked open for about five to ten minutes.  Just as importantly they need to be cooled on a wire rack.  An old oven rack can be called into duty. 

The puffs can be baked ahead of time, but the longer they stand before they are assembled, the softer they become.  The puffs can be frozen. Defrost the puffs and then reheat in a 350 degree F/177 degree C oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Cool before filling with ice cream.

Make the ganache.  Break up the chocolate into smaller pieces and put them in a small metal mixing bowl.

Using a small saucepan, bring the cream and butter to a boil.  Pour the hot cream and butter over the broken-up chocolate in the metal bowl.  Cover and set stand for ten minutes.

Then whisk smooth the the butter, cream, and chocolate.  The ganache can be flavoured, as with brandy or cognac for an extra glow.  The warm sauce serves as a wonderful foil for the cold ice cream.

Assemble the profiteroles.  Cut them in halves.

Place nice, rounded scoops (approx. two rounded tablespoons) of ice cream.

Put on tops.

Dribble the ganache over the profiteroles.

If there is excess ganache, you can easily make sublime chocolate truffles.  How sublime?  Truffles are edible velvetWorking with very cold ganache, scoop out little balls and dust in cocoa powder or crushed nuts.  And yes, if you want, you can just make the truffles and skip the cream puffs!  I won't tell anyone.  Bon appétit!

An unadorned truffle which I can assure you tastes scrumptious by itself.

Back in the garden, a rose bud hesitates to bloom.

In the potager, the fall/winter crops are doing well--broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks, carrots, and peas. 

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts beds in the background

I love topping up bowls of Velouté de Carottes with chopped, roasted broccoli which is added to the soup along with French bread chunks and bacon pieces.

Hearty, golden goodness!

Dayo enjoys climbing the bare trees as the days are still mostly mild.

He loves the Fig tree as it borders on three different yards.

Our short winter should begin in a week or so as the cranes have have left for North Africa.  They were not seen this season, but their wonderful honking was heard--at least by Monsieur M--as they migrated at night.

À bientôt