In my humble opinion, profiteroles , these lovely ice cream filled and chocolate topped pastry puffs, are one of the French’s finest contributions to the dessert course. That is saying something, I know, given the number of delicious pastries, mousses, tarts, and cakes that grace the annals of French gastronomy. To me, profiteroles are the French equivalent of our “brownie sundae”, something that is so simple, pure and delectable, that you can’t imagine ever tiring of them. They are easy to make, and seem equally at home being served after a Friday night pizza fest, or a formal dinner party.
We’ve made them a couple of times recently. First, a few weeks ago, when we were blessed to have a few guest chefs join us in the “Oui, Chef” kitchen, and then again today as fodder for a cooking demonstration that Grid shot for a film production class he is taking.
Our guest chefs were the delightful 5th grade twin daughters of friends who were joining us for dinner, we shall call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. One of the girls (can’t remember whether it was Dee or Dum) has already expressed interest in being a chef, and so was excited to join our “Oui, Chef” crew on temporary assignment. While Mom and Dad enjoyed a pre-dinner nibble and a glass of wine, Dee and Dum donned their aprons, rolled up their sleeves and whipped up our dessert for the evening.
Profiteroles are made from Pate a Choux, an egg-rich, silky dough that is also used to make cream puffs, eclairs, and the famed croquembouche. I first learned how to make them at Le Cordon Bleu, where we were forced to make the dough by hand, a fairly straight forward, but lengthy and arduous task. I have since discovered a recipe by the terrific food-blogger and cookbook writer David Lebovitz, that calls for mixing it with a standing mixer….yeah! The girls deftly handled the whole process with just a little guidance, from the stove-top making of the base dough, to the mixing in of the eggs, to the piping of the little balls onto the cookie sheets.
Once baked and fully cooled, the “choux balls” freeze beautifully, so make a double batch. Then, whenever you have the hankerin’ for a profiterole (or three), take them from the freezer and re-heat in a 350 ℉ oven for a few minutes. Fill with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle with some warm chocolate sauce (recipe follows) and pretend you’re dining in a street side bistro in Paris.
Thanks again to the Tweedle twins for our awesome profiterole feast!
mixing the dough vigorously on the stove
Pate a Choux
- 1 cup water
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large organic eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Pate a Choux
- Preheat the oven to 425℉ In a medium saucepan, heat the water, butter, salt, and sugar. When the butter is melted and the mixture just begins to boil, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously and continuously until it forms a smooth mass and comes away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat and either by hand or preferably with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the 4 eggs one at a time, and mix until the batter is stiff and shiny. Do not add each successive egg until the one prior has been fully incorporated into the dough. After each egg is added, it will look like the dough splits, but don't fret, keep mixing it and it WILL come back together. Place the dough into a pastry bag with a large plain tip, and pipe the pâte à choux in ping-pong sized balls onto parchment or silpat-lined baking sheets (or drop by spoonfuls) and place in oven. Turn the oven down to 375℉.
- Bake the puffs for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are a nice golden brown. To test if they are done pick one up, it should feel light and hollow, not dense or heavy on the bottom. Remove them from the oven, turn the oven off, and poke each puff on the side with a knife to release any excess steam, which can make them soggy. Return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes to dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. These can be stored at room temperature for several hours, or frozen and then later defrosted, and warmed in a 350℉ oven for a few minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder. That's it! Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once at a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted.
- You can let the Chocolate Sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will give it time to thicken a bit, and store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.