Profiteroles and Cream Puffs

I've wanted to make profiteroles for ages since I've certainly enjoyed my fair share of them at restaurants.  I loved being able to recreate this dessert at home - crisp yet soft pastry wrapped around cold ice cream with plenty of chocolate sauce (preferably warm) drizzled around.  Yum!  So with all my recent ice cream talk, I finally made profiteroles!
I filled mine with some homemade vanilla ice cream.  I took the classic route but there are no rules and any of your favorite ice cream flavor would be great.  Unadorned, they are possibly the coolest little ice cream sandwiches I can think of but I really believe chocolate sauce is a must.  Instead of making my own, I took a shortcut and warmed up some good-quality store-bought mint chocolate sauce that I had tucked away in the fridge to go with it.  It was really good!  My family and I had a good time polishing these off, and I was somewhat surprised to see my little one enjoying it since he usually turns them down at restaurants.  Unlike his mom, he's not big on carbs so the pastry doesn't appeal to him on sight.  But he loves eclairs...go figure!
And can I tell you something?  I had fun making the Pate a Choux dough for these puffs!  I simply stirred the ingredients together in a saucepan over the stove.  After it cools a bit, stir in a couple of eggs vigorously.  It's really that easy.  Then, watching the squat rounds of dough puff up in the oven is like a magic trick!  I must remember that when it comes time for my son to do science projects or enter science fairs, we need to consider doing something on eggs and how they make things magically inflate when heated.


Being that I hate to waste (and it's not always practical to share), I'm happy to report that you can freeze any leftover puffs you don't use.  My batch makes a dozen puffs - a manageable amount but, if necessary, you could freeze extras for another time.  You can actually store baked puffs in an airtight container for a couple of days; refresh them by popping them in the oven for a few minutes and they dry and crisp back up!  For longer storage, you can also either freeze the unbaked piped dough or the baked puffs once cooled.

And as most of you most likely already know, the dough, or Pate a Choux, is the basis for profiteroles that we stuff with ice cream as well as cream puffs, eclairs, and even savory gougeres (cheese puffs), too.  While I was only initially planning to make profiteroles, I decided to go double-duty with my dough and make some cream puffs too!  And, of course, instead of plain whipped cream, I had to make cocoa-whipped cream to go in it.
Don't you love it when you can take one thing and turn it into something else?

The pastry's hallow centers make perfect little wells for the cream in the cream puffs and the ice cream in the profiteroles.  A creamy filling works great with the light shells.  I have to admit that, asked to choose, I prefer something with ice cream rather than without so the four remaining puffs in my freezer are destined to be filled with some and made into profiteroles in the very near future.

I hope I've convinced you to make some profiteroles - they are a great excuse to eat more ice cream!


Pate a Choux

First, the Pate a Choux dough to make the actual puffs.  I'm sure you've seen this done on cooking shows many times but here's my summary with a few pictures.

Start with a small heavy-bottom saucepan.  My recipe starts with half a cup of water and half a stick of butter.  Put these in the pan with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set the pan over a medium-high heat, stirring until the butter is melted.  Then, remove the pan from the heat, drop in 1/2 cup of flour all at once and stir it well with a wooden spoon until the flour is absorbed and the dough comes together and pulls away from the pan.
Now, I dump the hot dough into a large glass bowl and stir it around for a few minutes to cool.  Transferring to a bowl just speeds up the cooling process a bit.  You could continue on with the next step in the same saucepan but just make sure to allow a few extra minutes to make sure the dough is no more than lukewarm and the pan itself isn't too hot.  (Some recipes call for placing the dough into a mixer to beat and cool down but I prefer to do it by hand.)  You need the dough to cool a bit because you now add 2 eggs and you don't want to cook any of the eggs!  Add one at a time and stir.  At first, it will look a mess.
Never fear because keep stirring and it comes together, like you see below.  It's actually fun!
Then repeat with the second egg and stir together until smooth and combined.
Dough is all done and actually quite forgiving to make.  

Now, you can do like I did and transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a plain round 1/2 inch opening to pipe out the rounds.  You could also just use a plastic sandwich bag and cut an opening.  Better yet, you could even just spoon out the rounds using 2 spoons or try using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
The dough turned out thinner than I expected but it all worked out well.  I brushed the tops of the rounds with a little bit of egg wash.  That gives it a nice golden color after baking and helps to flatten any pointy tops (you can wet your fingertip and flatten any points that way).

Place the sheet in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes or so, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  They will be puffed and golden.  They should feel light, hallow and dry when done.  Be careful when checking them - they are hot!  You can literally pick them right up off the baking sheet.  I turn off the oven but leave the finished puffs in there for about 10 minutes to dry out.
One recipe I looked at recommends poking a couple of holes in the puffs.  I think it's the same idea for popovers  where you want to let steam escape and to keep them crisp instead of soggy.  I don't think it's really necessary with these puffs but I couldn't resist sticking a couple of holes in the bottom of each before placing them on a wire rack.
As you can see, the little puffs have a natural hallow in the center for your filling.  That's just how they should be!

Profiteroles

For profiteroles, simply slice off the tops and add a scoop of your preferred ice cream.  Warm up some chocolate sauce and dig in.  You could go crazy and add a dollop of whipped cream and, for me, I like some almonds.  This one had my name on it.

Cream Puffs

To make the cream puffs, I whipped some heavy cream with a bit of cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar.  I think I was a little too enthusiastic with the whisk and whipped them further than I needed to.  Of course, you can go with plain whipped cream.  I've seen Martha make a filling of pastry cream lightened with a bit of whipped cream for them too.  

Just slice the baked cream puffs again and fill the hallow with a good dose of the cream.  A little dusting of confectioners' sugar completes them.

Notes on storage:

Just to review, you can keep the baked Pate a Choux in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  They will feel soggy when you take them out so it's important to put them in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  That will dry and crisp them back up.

To freeze the baked puffs, let cool and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer until frozen.  Place the puffs in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.  Defrost them at room temperature and place in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes or so, until they crisp back up again.

You can also freeze unbaked mounds of the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and once hardened, pop them in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer for about 2 months.  They do not need to be defrosted before baking.

Update (Jan. 2015): After making eclairs, I learned the importance of cooking out the moisture in the pate a choux dough before proceeding.  I have made some adjustments to the recipe below to reflect this.

Recipe:

Profiteroles and Cream Puffs
Adapted from The Perfect ScoopAnne Burrell, and Joy of Baking

- Makes 12 puffs - 

Pate a Choux:
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg and a teaspoon water, for egg wash

If making profiteroles
Ice cream and chocolate sauce of your choice

Cocoa-whipped cream if making cream puffs:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Place water, sugar, salt, and butter into a saucepan.  Bring to a rapid boil over high heat.  Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly start stirring the mixture together energetically with a wooden spoon.  The dough will come together and a light film will form at the bottom of the pan.  Keep stirring vigorously for another minute or two.  [This step of cooking the dough is very important; it dries out the dough so that the pate a choux will not be too watery.]

Turn the dough out into a mixing bowl and stir for a few minutes until dough cools down to lukewarm (to avoid cooking the eggs to come).  Add one egg into the bowl and stir it briskly into the dough using a wooden spoon.  At first, the mixture will separate but keep beating and it will come together.  Repeat with second egg until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip about 1/2" wide. Pipe 12 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spaced about 1-2 inches apart.  The mounds will be roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  (Instead of a piping bag and tip, you can use a sandwich bag with the tip snipped off, two spoons, or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop to make the mounds.)

Lightly beat the egg and water together to make an egg wash.  Gently brush the top of each mound with some of the egg wash.  This should smooth out any tips on the mounds.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until dough has puffed and browned.  The puffs should be light and airy when done.  Turn off the oven and leave the puffs inside, with the oven door ajar, for 10 minutes to dry out.  Remove to wire racks and let cool completely.

Storage: The puffs are best eaten the day they are made but can be kept in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 3 days.  To refresh, place them in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes to dry and crisp them back up.  

You can also freeze the baked puffs.  Let cool and set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the freezer.  Place the frozen puffs in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.  Defrost them at room temperature and place in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes or so, until they crisp back up again.  You can also freeze unbaked mounds of the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and once hardened, pop them in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer for about 2 months. They do not need to be defrosted before baking.

For profiteroles: Slice off the top half of the puff horizontally and fill the hallow with ice cream before placing the top back on.  Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce and serve.

For cream puffs: Whisk cream until it just begins to come together in a loose peak. Sift in the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, add the vanilla, and continue whisking until soft peaks.  Slice the puff across and fill the cavity with cocoa whipped cream and place the top back on.  Dust tops of filled cream puffs with confectioners' sugar, if desired.






34 comments:

  1. These all came out so beautiful, Monica! They seriously look perfect! These would get me into trouble big time... they look delicious :)

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    1. Thank you, Marie! Just goes to show the pate a choux dough is really forgiving! Seems you can just stir and stir the life out of it(a nice workout and good stress relief) and it's ready to go!

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  2. I just know we are going to be friends for a long time! I love this recipe and would have never dreamed of making them - but now I am dreaming! If only I had time, I would make all sorts of breads and pastries - I guess it's a good thing I don't have time! These are gorgeous!!!

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    1. haha! I think so too, Tricia! : )
      This is so easy and fast! Maybe you can give it a go when things quiet down after your daughter's wedding. Please don't mention bread - I've yet to make it and really want to but then again, I don't...I'm confused! : )

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  3. I find pate a choux super fun to make as well! And I'm always so amazed when it puffs up...it's a surprise every time!

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    1. Yes, those squat mounds of dough rising like that and being hallow inside is a pretty amazing trick. Love it.

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  4. Wow, these look beautiful and came out perfectly Monica! You did an amazing job and I love how you turned them into two fantastic pastries:) These look so delicious and I wish could grab the chocolate glazed whipped cream one and pop it in my mouth. Yum!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! I'm definitely more into the ice cream profiteroles but thought it would be nice to do something else with it and I had some cream in the fridge...

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  5. I've never made pate a choux but I've always wanted to...it's really pretty amazing how it transforms as it cooks! I always thought I didn't like profiteroles because they had whipped cream in them, but with ice cream they sound like something I'd LOVE!!! These looks so so yummy :)

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    1. Hey Amy - the pate a choux turned out to be so easy and this recipe doesn't make a ton so that's good. I wouldn't pick a cream puff normally either but it was fun to make and the cocoa cream does go well with that pastry. : ) Profiteroles with ice cream are sooo good!
      Maybe you'd like to use the dough to make cheese puffs or gougeres instead?

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  6. wow talk about the perfect choux pastry! These look incredible, Monica.

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    1. Thanks, Angie. I got lucky with the first batch, I think!

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  7. These look absolutely perfect!! And how fun to be able to pick different fillings. What a great recipe!

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    1. Thank you, Cate. They are very easy to make, trust me! I love some new excuses to eat ice cream.

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  8. Oh my goodness that looks amazing Monica! That first picture you have there looks like you bought it at a bakery or restaurant. WOW! I love the idea of using ice cream as a filling. Look so delicious that I want to reach in and grab a few for myself. ;) Well done!

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    1. Thanks so much, Anne. You are very sweet!

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    1. They are cute little things, aren't they! Thanks for your comment.

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  10. It's my husband's dream to eat cream puffs at home. :) He even said he'd try making them (since I don't seem to start baking anytime soon...haha). These look so delicious and beautiful! We won't be able to stop eating when we make at home. :)

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    1. It is so easy to make! He can definitely make them since you are so busy cooking up all sorts of delicious foods. : )

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  11. Wow, these cream puffs look so lovely and delicious! I'd love to make these for the summer (:

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    1. I hope you do make them one day this summer and enjoy them!

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  12. Omg! These looks amazing!! I've always wanted to try making profiteroles! It's just so darn easy and the whole process of making pate a choux is mesmerizing :)

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    1. Yes, I was always the same way, thinking the same and I'm glad I finally tried!

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  13. I attended a class where we helped make eclairs and some related stuff. It is cool watching them puff up!

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    1. It definitely is a cool trick. I took a picture of them in mid-puff when I rotated the pan...it was just too neat. : )

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  14. Oh goodness I am addicted to cream puffs and can literally eat like 12 at a time. If I made my own I would not share with anyone haha yours do look fantastic!

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. Luckily, cream puffs aren't my weakness but ice cream is one and I can never resist profiteroles on a menu.

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  15. I know what you mean about enjoying make pate a choux. I always thought that it was impossible but it isn't and it's so rewarding! I can see how good quality chocolate would be wonderful :)

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    1. Yes, fun to whip up and watching them puff in the oven is very neat.

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  16. I love your step by step photos! YES! because i'm ashamed to say it a little, but i've never made these before. like, ever, because i'm always afraid i'm going to completely screw it up. This makes me really want to try them, and your instructions may mean i'm not going to dissolve into tears when i do. Thanks Monica! :)

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    1. I did step by step pics when I first started the blog but I realized I must have 80 pictures of chocolate melting in a glass bowl and it was exhausting stopping and taking pics (which I don't really enjoy) so I don't do it much anymore. Sometimes though, some pics are called for and it's a good reminder for me on how things should look. There's always a self-serving motivation. :)
      Making pate a choux really turns out to be as easy as they claim. You'd have no difficulty but honestly, there are so many things to make that I don't even try to count what I haven't done...the list is too long!

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  17. Absolutely Gorgeous!
    I have yet to try making these at home but would love to. In my college days my friends and I would eat a dozen eclairs at a time. This with the vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce looks divine!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Asmita! I used to eat the same way when I was "young"...Sigh... : ) Now, it's about moderation so every bite has to be worth it. My son loves eclairs, too! : )

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