Paris Bistro Profiteroles
Profiteroles are a classic French bistro dessert. Not what you’d call elegant exactly, certainly not rustic though either, but fitting comfortably, sweetly in between.
Imagine if you will:
You’re in a small restaurant sitting at a petite metal table draped with white butcher paper. On it, white linen napkins. Heavy silverware. Two small flickering candles. A few fresh flowers in a small jar. Across the table from you, so near your knees could touch, sits someone whose company you love. You’re wrapped in conversation. The tables around you are full and already a line is forming out the door. Bon soirs and multiple cheek-kisses on meeting, French voices ringing all around and plates clattering loudly in the kitchen nearby. Your server approaches, his long white apron covering slim black trousers. A tray he holds overhead lowers, and on it:. creamy white gelato-filled puffs, drizzled with a warm dark sauce that spills over the sides. And on the tray too, demitasse cups, three-quarters full of espresso that you’ll say later was the smoothest, most wonderful you’ve ever tasted. And then, there’s those profiteroles…!
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This recipe comes from Chef Kimberly Schor and appears in a Nordstrom Entertaining Cookbook. I’ve tried several recipes for profiteroles and I like this as well (or better) than any. An instructive note from the chef:
When she was researching menus in Paris with fellow chef and good friend Nicque from the Cordon Bleu, she learned three basics truths about profiteroles. They must be made daily, vanilla gelato works better than ice cream because of its creamy, velvety texture, and the chocolate used for the sauce must be semisweet and of high quality. (Guittard, Volrhona or Scarffen Berger.)
This is NOT a difficult dessert to make. The suggestion is that a single serving is 2 profiteroles, but 1 seems quite plenty to us. I freeze what we don’t eat and serve them later. I make only half the sauce at a time so as not to try to save leftovers. You might like a coffee gelato, or maybe a slightly salty caramel sauce instead of chocolate. Profiteroles are a dessert to be played with. (And for the record, kids love them!)
Pastry Puffs (the pâte à choux)
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup (1 stick) plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
- ½ pound high-quality semisweet chocolate roughly chopped
- ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 1 pint vanilla gelato
(For this recipe, and for most if we’re being honest, assembling all the ingredients and tools you’ll need ahead of time will make the process smooth and easy.)
To make the Pastry Puffs:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, butter, salt and water and bring just to a boil. Add the sifted flour in a steady stream while constantly stirring until all the flour is incorporated. Continue to cook while stirring all along until the mixture forms a stiff mass, 3 or 4 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer. Beat with a mixer set on low speed until it lightens in color and cools slightly, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. After all eggs have been incorporated, continue mixing for 1 minute longer. The dough should be smooth and sticky. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
To form the puffs, use a 1½-ounce spring-action-grip ice-cream scoop. Pack the pastry dough tightly into the scoop and release onto the parchment-lined pans. (You may need to squeeze the “trigger” several times for the dough to completely release.) Repeat to form 16 puffs in all, spacing them evenly. (They will not spread much, but will rise.) Lightly brush the tops with egg yolk-water wash.
Place the pan into the oven and bake the puffs undisturbed for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure even baking and continue to bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes longer (but begin checking after 17.) Remove from the oven and set aside until cool to the touch.
To make the Chocolate Sauce, fill a double boiler or saucepan with 1 inch of water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Place the chocolate into the top of the double boiler or a heat-proof bowl inside the pan. Allow chocolate to nearly melt completely, then add the cream. When the chocolate has fully melted, stir the cream and chocolate together, being gentle rather than vigorous. The mixture should be smooth and glossy. Add a touch more cream if it seems a touch too thick.
With a serrated knife, split each puff in half horizontally. Using an ice-cream scoop, place a scoop of gelato on the bottom of each puff. Return the tops, nestling them gently into the gelato. Transfer to shallow bowls or dessert plates. Carefully pour or spoon the warm sauce over the top. Light the candles. Serve immediately.