Monday, 30 April 2012


Recipe Number One Hundred & Ninety:  Page 276.

I have such fond memories of making profiteroles. In my youth I went through a phase of conjuring up a batch whenever family visited for birthday teas. They always went down well and I loved making them. Choux pastry has always been my favourite pastry to make. There is no messy rubbing in and, of course, there isn't a rolling pin in sight. Best of all I don't have to deal with the horror of trying to line a tin with crumbling pastry!

As we had friends visiting in the afternoon it seemed a perfect occasion to have another go at profiteroles. It had been many years since I'd tried them, but I had made chocolate éclairs a few months earlier. They are essentially the same thing, just a different shape!!

For a change, our house didn't resemble a rubbish tip and was just mildly untidy! I whizzed round quickly with the vacuum cleaner, much to my little boy’s delight. As he enjoys watching, I'm hoping he will soon want to take over the job! It was nearly time for his nap, so I quickly shoved his toys into the drawers of his little cabinet. I turned momentarily to pick something up off the floor. I heard a “Ta-da!” and turned just in time to witness Isaac pull a drawer from his cabinet and proudly empty the entire contents onto the floor. Time for bed!

Once Isaac was tucked up in bed, Neil took over the tidying duties whilst I got on with making the profiteroles. Instead of reaching for my mixing bowl, I rooted around in the kitchen cupboard and brought out a small saucepan. I gathered up the butter from the fridge and placed a bag of flour and a sieve to one side. As I weighed the butter into the pan I realised yet another reason to make choux pastry; it doesn't contain much butter! I measured water into the pan and then placed it over the heat. I warmed it gently until the butter had melted, then I could bring the oily mixture to the boil. As soon as it reached a steady bubbling boil I whisked it off the heat and sifted in the plain flour. Mary says to beat until the mixture forms a soft ball. This happened almost immediately. I gave it a good old beating for a minute back on the hob, then turned off the heat and left the ball of silky smooth dough to cool a little. Neil made a cup of tea and I gladly used the time to sit back and enjoy it. By the time I trotted back into the kitchen, the dough had lost its wisps of steam and had cooled considerably.

Now was the time to add a couple of eggs, but first I needed to give them a light beating. Mary suggests adding the beaten egg to the thick paste a little at a time. Ha! The eggs were having none of it. Half the amount leaped straight from the bowl and into the saucepan. I let out an involuntary yelp and whisked the mixture like crazy. It seemed to survive, so I chucked in the rest! Another bout of frantic whisking and my mixture was suitably smooth and shiny.

Next came the dreaded part of piping the paste onto the awaiting baking trays. In the past I simply spooned the mixture onto the trays, but I decided to follow Mary's instructions - against my better judgement! I looked in the kitchen drawer for my piping bags and found that they had fallen down the back of the unit. I should have asked Neil for assistance as he has much longer arms, but I stubbornly persevered. I reached an inch too far and an almighty pain spread through my neck and shoulder – ouch! At least I managed to grab the piping bags!

With sore hunched shoulders I soldiered on and piped mounds of pastry onto the baking trays. They seemed rather small, but I remembered that they spread and puff up when cooking. I put the trays into the hot oven for ten minutes. Neil dished up some tomato soup and I tucked in whilst I waited. Halfway though I realised that I needed to turn the oven down, so I dashed back into the kitchen still clutching a slice of bread!!! Once the oven was turned down the profiteroles needed to cook for another ten minutes. This gave me time to polish off the rest of my lunch.

Soggy éclairs or profiteroles are a pet hate of mine. After the total twenty minutes cooking time I wasn't happy that mine were thoroughly cooked through, so I left them in the oven a little longer. I then followed Mary's suggestion for super crisp pastry. When the profiteroles were out of the oven I spilt them to allow the steam to escape. Quick as a flash I popped them back in the oven to crisp up for another five or so minutes. The cooked pastry was a lovely golden colour and appeared to be perfectly cooked through. They were rather fragile, so I had to be careful when arranging them onto a wire rack to cool; alas, there were a few casualties!

By this time our friends had arrived and Isaac was up and about taking great delight in showing off!! While everyone played, I quickly finished off the profiteroles. I poured a great deal of double cream into a bowl and used my electric whisk to thicken it up. As I didn't want the pastry to go soggy I decided to make the chocolate icing before filling the profiteroles with the cream.

I broke up a surprisingly small amount of plain chocolate. Of course I couldn't resist breaking off a few extra pieces to nibble on while I worked! I'm a strong believer in cook’s perks! The amount of butter required was again very small. Apart from the cream filling, maybe profiteroles aren't so bad for you! I put the chocolate, butter and a few tablespoons of water in a small glass bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water. There was such a small amount of chocolate that I'd expected it to give in to the heat within a few minutes. This was not the case; it took such a long time and I felt as though I was melting more rapidly myself.

Finally I was able to turn off the heat and sieve in a small amount of icing sugar. Following a recent clear out of my kitchen cupboard, three unopened boxes of icing sugar were found. As the boxes are taking up a lot of space I wish I'd needed more!! I quickly beat some in and soon had a wonderfully smooth sauce. I left the bowl over the pan of warm water while I filled the profiteroles with cream. I wanted to keep it warm so that it didn't set.

The nozzle I used to pipe the cream was rather pathetic and it blocked solid immediately! I had to give up and cut it free from the restraints of the bag. I couldn't be bothered to start again with another bag and nozzle, so I piped straight from the large gaping hole. It was very messy and I was constantly wiping my hands with copious quantities of kitchen towel. Once the cream had been used up, I dunked the profiteroles into the chocolate sauce to give a lovely thick coating. They looked good enough to eat!!!!

I didn't have the patience to let the chocolate icing set completely and I was soon dishing it up onto plates for all of us. As we'd already eaten large slices of key lime pie (Mary’s recipe of course), we stuck to two each! I was really pleased with the profiteroles; they were lovely and crisp and not at all soggy. The cream and chocolate were a heavenly combination. The pastry on its own isn't highly exciting. However, put the three all together and you're on to an easy winner!! Our guests said they really enjoyed both offerings; all the plates were wiped clean! Sadly profiteroles do not keep well and, within an hour or so, the remainder were already becoming soggy. I gathered up a few along with some key lime pie and made a delivery to my friend who lives a few doors down. Neil and I purposely had a light evening meal so that we could finish off the rest of the goodies. We had to sit very still for some time afterwards!! It was worth it though!
Two for me and one for baby!! ;-)

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