Cream puffs are one of those desserts that can appear either super posh or as everyman’s fare, depending on how you dress them. Filled with a simple vanilla pastry cream and dusted with a little icing sugar, they are delightful sweets that are easily held in the hand and devoured in a few quick bites. To turn them into something breathtaking, they can be dipped in caramel to build a towering croquembouche, decorated with swirls of spun sugar till it shines with a golden hue like a beacon from afar.
The basics of these sweet bites are the same – choux pastry either spooned or piped into rounds are then baked, which allows a pocket of steam to build up inside their firm exterior. Baked till they are firm enough to hold their form once the steam is removed, the hollow can carry almost any sweet or savoury filling, though typically they are served with some pastry cream, custard or chantilly cream.
My family do love their desserts, but they’re not huge fans of overly sweet or extravagent sweets, so things like these profiteroles are what bring the most amount of joy to everyone, and watching their faces light up when I present these surprise bundles feels almost like it’s Christmas, and I’m Santa Claus!
Having simple sweets is fine by me, but sometimes I want something a bit fancier, so my favourite way to enjoy these treats is with a drizzle of a gorgeous chocolate sauce (recipe to come up later this week!), which I think does wonders to provide a flavour contrast to the sweet, vanilla flavoured custard inside the puffs. Either which way, these golden little balls make for a marvellous sweet snack or dessert, and their sheer versatility makes choux pastry/profiteroles a recipe that I think every home cook should have and know
(Sorry this is a bit of a short entry, folks, but I have a research project that I need to work on so my time is a bit limited! Nonetheless, on to the recipe!)
Profiteroles with vanilla pastry cream
(makes about 25 – 30 large, or 50-60 small)
Pâte à Choux ingredients
125g all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
113g unsalted butter
Half tsp salt
4 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Place the water, milk, butter and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, and on medium heat bring the liquid to a rolling boil.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add all the flour, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon till combined and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
3. Place the pan back on the heat and continue to cook for another minute, to help remove excess moisture from the dough. Leave the dough to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (you need the dough to be cooler before adding the eggs otherwise they will solidify and cook).
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition (you can do this with a wooden spoon if you are like me and don’t have a mixer. It just needs a bit of arm-power!). Continue beating/mixing till the dough is smooth and shiny, then pipe/spoon into forms on lined baking trays.
5. Place into oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 180 degrees C and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or till golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, then pierce a hole into each profiterole to allow the steam to escape (if you don’t do this then the steam will be absorbed by the choux pastry and they’ll become soggy), then set aside till completely cool.
6. Crème Pâtissière (pastry cream), custard or Crème Chantilly into the hollows of each then serve as desired
Crème Pâtissière ingredients (from The Cook’s Book)
250mL full-fat milk
22.5g corn starch
65g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 egg yolks
25g butter, at room temperature and cut into walnut-sized cubes
1. Whisk together the milk, corn starch, vanilla paste and 30g of sugar in a heavy-based pan. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over low heat, whisking continuously.
2. Once the milk mixture has reached a rolling boil, remove from the heat. Whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 35g of sugar, then slowly pour in the milk in a thin stream, whisking continously. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly, then immediately remove from the heat.
3. Stand the pan in a shallow bowl filled with ice and leave to cool to about 60 degrees C. Once cooled, add the pieces of butter and whisk briskly till they have melted and the sauce is smooth and shiny.
4. Remove from the pan and place in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic is good), cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate till needed.
This Crème Pâtissière can be flavoured with a variety of flavours if you want to try something different:
- Chocolate: Add 125g finely grated plain chocolate to the warm sauce in 3 batches, stir till smooth.
- Coffee: Dissolve 2.5g instant coffee in 1tsp hot water, then add 2 drops espresso. Add to the warm cream and stir till smooth.
For a lighter treat, cut half the Crème Pâtissière with freshly whipped cream when it is cool and thickened but before it sets. It lightens the dessert and makes it a perfect pairing for fresh fruit such as strawberries!
[tags]choux pastry, profiteroles, pastry cream, Crème Pâtissière, custard, dessert, sweets, pastry [/tags]