Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Profiteroles, Je Vous Aime

 Amelie Poulain and her menu board.

 When I think of profiteroles, I think of of the mirrored glass in French cafes and brasseries on which the menu du jour is scribbled with a white marker. The dessert is quite consistently, in my experience, "les profiteroles" or another type of pastry. Pastry fanatics can generally order a plateful for dessert from a variety of French establishments- they are sometimes brought out as a snack while you mull over dessert options! Nevertheless, profiteroles are far from "common." Made from a pastry dough called "pate a choux," they are piped out onto parchment paper in small peaks or doled out with 2 teaspoons. Profiteroles are quintessentially French, and, like so many other French pastries, are made from very simple, good quality ingredients, such as butter, flour, eggs, and vanilla.

     In the States, profiteroles have evolved into what  we call "cream puffs," and are typically filled with vanilla pudding or whipped cream. Take the time to try these profiteroles with the classic French filling- creme patissiere (pastry cream), and top them with this thick and delicious chocolate sauce. Pick up a couple vanilla bean pods in the spice aisle instead of using vanilla extract- trust me, you will taste the difference, and your friends and family will unashamedly lick their plates clean! If you are short on time, these may also be filled with good-quality vanilla ice cream.

Note: The recipe below is for creme Anglaise (a vanilla bean sauce) which is much thinner than the typical filling for profiteroles, creme patissiere (pastry cream). I suggest serving these in bowls if you make with the creme Anglaise- it's very delicious, but not traditionally served this way. Thank you for this correction, Helene. :)

Serves 6

1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
pinch of Kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cream, divided
1 (3-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 espresso shot, or 3-4 tbsp coffee

For the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. Add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor, add eggs, and pulse until the eggs are incorporated and the mixture is thick. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, and pipe out mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (You can also use two spoons to scoop out the mixture.) Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the creme Anglaise:
Pour 1 cup of cream into a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add the seeds and pod to the cream. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Combine sugar and yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Gradually add cream mixture to bowl, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat about 6 minutes, until the mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon. (Don't overcook, or mixture will curdle!) Pour mixture back into bowl, cover, and refrigerate. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

For the chocolate sauce:
Heat remaining 1/2 cup of cream on the stove top or microwave until boiling. Place chocolate chips in a bowl, then pour the hot cream over the top and stir until the chocolate melts. Add the espresso or coffee and stir until smooth.

To serve, cut each profiterole in half crosswise, fill with a couple spoonfuls of creme Anglaise, and replace the top. Generously drizzle with the warm chocolate sauce.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris"


  1. Hate to correct but Creme anglaise is vanilla bean sauce (kinda thick but no one in France would venture filling choux with it!) - profiteroles are either filled with 'creme patissiere" (= pastry cream) or ice cream.

  2. Thanks for the correction! We ate these in bowls with the creme anglaise poured over them (you are right, it gets messy!) but was still delicious. Ina Garten's recipe fills them with ice cream, so I thought I would try creme anglaise instead. I will update the recipe to give more options (and include the authentic- creme patissiere.) Merci bien Helene!