MON PETIT CHOU D'AMOUR
The most elegant of desserts, nothing is more impressive or festive as that oh so divine delicacy French Profiteroles. Perfect, tiny puff shells, light as air, filled with just a scoop of creamy, cold vanilla ice cream with a decadent whirl of warm, dark chocolate sauce atop.
Simon, as I have already noted on an earlier post, is not a maniac for sweets. He almost always turns down dessert, and in restaurants he consistently refuses anything more than a bowl of strawberries in season with a sprinkling of sugar. Sad. But he recently discovered the unadulterated joy of Profiteroles. Now, when we decide to go out, he will run to the phone and reserve at our favorite pizza parlor because of the profiteroles on their menu. So I promised him that I would make them for him. What a lovely mom I am.
The recipe I have used is very special to me. My father used this recipe, which he photocopied from a magazine sometime in the 1960’ s and had stuck on the refrigerator door for the next 20 years. I now have that photocopy. He would make monster-sized puffs that he would then fill with chocolate or vanilla pudding.What a feast it was; open the fridge and find one of dad’s pudding-filled pastries.
But now I am married to a Frenchman, the mother of two more and living in France. So it is only appropriate that I learn how to make this delicacy à la française. Who else but the French could take something so basically simple as unsweetend dough baked into a puff of air, something so “white bread” as vanilla ice cream and with a splash of dark, almost bitter chocolate sauce turn it into a something so ambrosial, so divine.
So, in honor of my dear old dad and for his grandson Simon : Profiteroles.
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 cup (8 Tbs, 115 g) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (200 g) flour
Ice cream, traditionally vanilla but coffee is this girl’s dream
Warm Chocolate Sauce, recipe follows
Whipped Cream, optional and decadent
For the Choux puffs :
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°). Grease a large cookie sheet or line it with oven-safe parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the water, butter and salt until butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Scrape this ball into a large pyrex mixing bowl and, stirring, allow to cool for a minute or two. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (here I switched to a whisk as it worked better than a wooden spoon), until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Using a teaspoon (or tablespoon for larger puffs), scoop up mounds of the dough and carefully push the dough off onto the prepared cookie sheet, using your finger or a rubber spatula. They will rise and almost double in size, so leave a bit of space between puffs.
Bake for 35 minutes (for the small puffs) until risen and just barely golden. Working very quickly, open the oven and, with a sharp knife, make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow steam to escape - I also use this opportunity to turn my cookie sheets around back to front, as my oven heats quicker in the back - then bake them for about 5 more minutes until golden brown.
Remove the sheet from the oven, replacing this batch for the next in the oven, and allow to cool on a rack (as I bake my puffs on sheets of parchment or oven paper, I slide the paper off of the hot cookie sheet onto the cooling rack).
These choux turn out very light and airy, moist, not hard as cardboard as we unfortunately find too often in restaurants. If you like them a bit dryer, just leave them longer in the oven.
For the Warm Chocolate Sauce I : (the bum recipe)
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
3/4 cup (a bit more) (200 ml) heavy cream
1 Tbs sugar
4.2 oz (125 g) dark chocolate 70% cocoa, chopped fine **
Blend the milk, cream and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Slowly pour part of the hot milk over the chocolate in a bowl and beat together vigorously with a whisk. When it is smooth, pour the rest of the liquid over the chocolate and whisk until smooth and thick.
Let cool a bit before pouring over profiteroles. This can be served hot, warm or room temperature.
** I used a recipe from a cookbook that I recently bought myself, Les Desserts de Stéphane, written by pastry chef Stéphane Glacier and tested by his friend, journalist Emmanuelle Jary. I folllowed the simple instructions and it turned out pretty much a disaster! Too liquid by far for a Sauce, which should be thick and creamy. This was practically watery! And it was slightly grainy as well, though that could have been my fault. But I and Simon both were unhappy with the results.
I ended up adding more and more chocolate, up to a total of almost 300 grams (10 oz) and then almost another tablespoon of sugar. It was still too runny by far, but as far as taste is concerned, it was very good, what we find in a good restaurant chocolate sauce.
For the Profiteroles :
Allow 3 choux per person. With a very sharp, preferably serrated knife, carefully slice through the choux a little more than halfway up, leaving you with a bottom “cup” and a top “hat”.
Place a scoop of ice cream on each bottom half, then cap it with the top.
Arrange the three choux on a dessert plate and pour the Warm Chocolate Sauce over the Profiteroles before serving.
You can see that the sauce is runny and grainy. Not nice!
If it’s drama you want, pour the Sauce slowly over the choux in front of your guest (watch as eyes begin to tear up and hear the low groans of ecstasy as the anticipation mounts), drizzling the fragrant, steamy chocolate in a lazy swirl around and over each puff. Add whipped cream if you are feeling really decadent.
And as long as My Petit Choux is happy..... then Maman is happy!
WARM CHOCOLATE SAUCE for Profiteroles II
My husband, after having sampled and raved over the perfection of my puffs, walked into the kitchen as I was weeping, well, actually raging over my disastrous first try at the Chocolate Sauce. He took one look at me, shook his head and grabbed our old Recettes Faciles by Françoise Bernard, even more of a fixture in every French kitchen than Julia Child’s books are in American kitchens - because Françoise’s recipes truly are Simple.
My husband exclaimed “Why didn’t you use Françoise’s recipe for Chocolate Sauce? Everything in her book is foolproof!” as he was flipping through the pages to find the recipe for me.
So, second round of Profiteroles and I made her Sauce. This recipe truly is simple. Dark chocolate, butter and a dash of water. Barely one minute of stirring over the heat and I had in front of me a smooth, glossy, thick, creamy and PERFECT chocolate sauce.
Françoise Bernard, here is to you! And I should always listen to my husband.
Françoise Bernard’s WARM CHOCOLATE SAUCE for Profiteroles
4.5 oz (125 g) best dark chocolate *
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter
2 Tbs water
Put the chocolate, butter and water into a small saucepan over low to medium-low heat. Stir constantly until you have a smooth, creamy sauce.
* After using chocolate at 70% cocoa for the first batch, I decided to use a dark chocolate that is just slightly sweeter. I chose Poulain 65%. The sauce was fabulous, but next time I will venture to use the 70% and make a very bitter chocolate sauce which complements the sweet ice cream perfectly.
Spoon this very thick sauce over the Profiteroles while still hot.
Now, that is perfect chocolate sauce!
If it cools down too much before serving, just warm it up, stirring all the while. You will absolutely amaze your family and friends!