Saturday, October 6, 2007

Profiteroles...Ice Cream Puffs of Joy

One of my very favorite desserts to order in a Parisian restaurant is profiteroles. Many foreign tourists don't order profiteroles, because they aren't so sure what they are. Strange name, sounds like a contagious disease: "She has the profiteroles, only 2 months to live."

What is a profiterole? A cream puff "choux" filled with ice cream and covered with rich chocolate sauce. It is pure heaven, and fulfills many dessert needs at once: pastry, ice cream and chocolate.

Making your own Pate a choux is not as hard as it seems. If you have a food processor and a pastry bag, you're in luck.

Pate a Choux:
1 cup milk
4 Tbs butter (1/2 stick, unsalted)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup flour (unsifted)
5 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Put the milk, butter, salt and sugar in the saucepan, place over high heat. Stir, melting the butter and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add all the flour, stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon. You want to moisten all the flour and make the paste come together.

Set the pan over medium heat, continue to stir rapidly. The dough will soon come off the sides of the pan and become a soft lump. Continue stirring a bit longer, drying out the dough a bit, for a minute or so. You will see a whitish film forming on the bottom of the saucepan, and you are done.

Remove the dough from the heat and scrape it into the bowl of the food processor. Cool it for a few minutes so that the eggs won't cook when you add them. Break four of the eggs in a measuring cup, reserving the fifth egg.

Pulse the dough in the food processor, then add the eggs one at a time. Process each egg for a few seconds, adding each egg separately. Process for a few moments after each addition.

Stop and check the consistency of the dough. You want soft paste. If it is too stiff, lightly beat the fifth egg and add a bit of it to the dough, processing for a moment. You can use the rest of this egg for your egg wash.

Line the cookie sheet with parchment or a silpat.

Fit a plain tip on the pastry bag and fill the bag with the pate a choux. Pipe small puffs, using around one tablespoon of dough for small choux. For larger ones, use 2 - 3 tablespoons. Leave about 1 1/2 inches between each puff.

Using a beaten egg as your egg wash, brush the tops of each puff, smoothing down any point that is visible in the puff.

Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or 35 - 40 minutes for larger choux. The puffs will be deep golden brown all over when they are done.

When finished, turn off the heat and open the oven door a couple of inches and allow the puffs to dry out for about 30 minutes in the oven. Cool completely before using or storing (they can be stored for a few days in a plastic container, or frozen for several weeks in airtight containers.

Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup half and half or cream
6 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I use Valrhona)
1/4 cup strong espresso
Vanilla extract

In a small saucepan heat the half and half/cream to simmer. Add the espresso to the hot cream, and pour over the broken up chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Add one teaspoon vanilla. Store covered in the refrigerator.

To assemble your profiteroles:
Cut the tops off of the choux.
Place a small scoop of ice cream in the choux (I prefer vanilla bean)
Put the top on the choux
Cover with warm chocolate sauce
Sprinkle with powdered sugar

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