When I first met Rob, I was a law school student who didn't know the first thing about cooking. I owned one pot. I have no idea what I ate for dinner most nights (cereal?) and the first meal I cooked for Rob was goat cheese and mushroom quesadillas (this was a major triumph at the time... and I had to purchase a non-stick pan to make them because I didn't have one). Rob doesn't really like mushrooms. I was a vegetarian.
When we moved to London, the exchange rate was atrocious and eating out all the time was not an option. The woman who owned our flat lent me a copy of Joy of Cooking and I finally started to learn my way around a kitchen. Eventually, I got over the fact that Brits don't refrigerate their eggs. I still remember having some classmates over and successfully making a Flourless Chocolate Cake that people actually seemed to enjoy.
Back in Boston, I subscribed to Gourmet. Most of the recipes were way too complicated for me, but when the March 2008 issue arrived I knew I had to make profiteroles. I can't remember now whether I'd ever had them before, but the image on the cover was irresistible.
Have you ever seen such an enticing dessert? The pastry portion, which is the profiterole, is a pâte à choux or a light pastry dough. Translated from French, profiterole means "a small profit." Perhaps someone was being cheeky?
Miraculously, the first batch turned out well. Apparently I made them in my pajamas (see above - Sheepy Time!) and I was so proud that I made Rob take my photo.
Profiteroles can be finicky. I've had to start the choux over on numerous occasions. This is a recipe where you need to measure certain ingredients out ahead of time (I've noted them below). That said, it isn't complicated and it can all be done a day ahead of time. The chocolate sauce is out of this world good. You'll have some leftover and you'll likely spoon it on most anything... or just eat it on its own. Dangerous... but delicious.
Notes about making the profiteroles - After you melt the butter and water, the instructions tell you to add the flour at once and to stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pan. Be sure to measure out your flour ahead of time. If you get to this step and the dough doesn't pull away from the sides and form a ball, I'd suggest starting over (see the photo above for my dough "ball"). This has happened to me and the result is that the profiteroles don't rise. I'd also suggest cracking the eggs into a bowl ahead of time so they are easily added to the batter. You can still just drop one yolk in at a time (with the surrounding whites), but it will be much easier to do from a bowl.
The dough will be very sticky. I've found the easiest way to pipe the dough is in a ziploc. Even better, there is no clean up.
Notes about making the chocolate sauce - Measure your cream and chocolate ahead of time and have your salt nearby. Don't be dissuaded when, after adding the cream, the mixture will caramelize on your whisk or fork (see above where there is a huge chunk attached to my fork). As the mixture heats up, this will eventually melt. I've made the chocolate sauce ahead of time and it keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least a week. Of course, it is best served immediately.
Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
- 1 quart coffee ice cream (or vanilla or really any flavor you like)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
For chocolate sauce:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 7 ounce fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Equipment: a small (about 1 1/2-inch) ice cream scoop; a ziploc bag (trim one corner once the dough is in the bag and squeeze the dough from that corner)or a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip
Chill a small metal baking pan in freezer. Form 18 ice cream balls with scoop and freeze in chilled pan at least 1 hour (this will make serving faster) (I've never done this step but if you are serving this to a group or at a dinner, I am sure this is advisable).
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Measure out flour and set aside. Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.
Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Try to avoid having pointy peaks as they will be more likely to burn (just press them down gently with your finger).
Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Prick each profiterole once with a skewer, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.
Make chocolate sauce:
Heat sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
Remove from heat, then add cream and a pinch of salt (mixture will bubble and steam). Return to heat and cook, stirring, until caramel has dissolved.
Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted, then whisk in vanilla. Keep warm, covered.
Halve profiteroles horizontally, then fill each with a ball of ice cream. Put 3 profiteroles on each plate and drizzle generously with warm chocolate sauce.
Notes: Ice cream balls can be frozen up to 1 day (cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour). Profiteroles can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Recrisp on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven 5 minutes. Cool before filling.