Monday, January 3, 2011

Profiteroles ( Choux pastry)

Choux pastry is a very useful and adaptable recipe for both sweet and savoury treats. Once you are proficient at making it, you can quickly and easily use it to produce profiteroles, cream puffs, gougeres, party canap├ęs, appetisers, eclairs, etc. It works up very quickly, needs little equipment to produce, impresses the hell out of everyone. Your secret weapon to entertaining success.

The ingredients amounts suggested make up a batch of about 40 profiteroles. Bearing in mind that these are small puffs, that's a reasonable amount for dessert for a dinner party of 6 - 8 people. Excess (Ha! Not likely!), may be sealed in a zip lock bag and frozen. You can freeze them empty or filled with ice cream; I don't recommend freezing any other filling. From frozen, you can take them out shortly before serving and let them defrost slightly while you make chocolate sauce or any other of your choosing. They won't be as crisp as fresh but they are still marvellous.

Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) water
1 stick butter (4 oz/125 grams)
pinch of salt (literally, just grab a big pinch of salt between thumb and finger)
1 tsp sugar
1 cup plain flour (strong flour can also be used. Must be white flour whichever you choose!)
4 large eggs
4 oz chocolate - Belgian dark chocolate suggested, make sure it's 60 % or higher
1 cup double cream (whipping cream) or ice cream for the filling
sugar - for the whipped cream, to taste

NOTE - You MUST measure out all ingredients (except the chocolate and the cream) before starting this recipe and have them ready to hand.

Tools:
1 saucepan - medium size
1 sturdy wooden mixing spoon
flat baking sheets
parchment or greaseproof kitchen paper
pastry (piping) bag and plain tip (optional)
Whisk or electric mixer

Method:

1. Place water, butter cut up, salt, and sugar in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter melts.
2. Add the flour all at once, stir it in and then beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a smooth paste without any lumps in it.
3. Set the saucepan aside to cool for a few minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 200C - make sure racks are spaced apart to allow heat to circulate.
5.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook.’ The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so of vigorous beating, it will smooth out and become shiny and silky looking.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment/greaseproof paper  
 Scoop the choux pastry into a piping bag and pipe out small dollops of it spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Alternatively, you can just use 2 teaspoons to scoop up the dough and plop it onto the sheet, which is what I do. If you do use a pastry bag you will need to wet your finger with cold water and lightly flatten the peaks on top of the dollops. 
8. Put the tray into the oven and cook them for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door for the first 20 minutes! Then you can take a peek to see how they are browning. Depending on your oven, they may be ready or need the full time to become completely golden brown. 
9. Remove the sheet from the oven, pierce the side of each hot puff with a small sharp knife to release the steam from the hollow inside and allow the choux puffs to cool for 2 - 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. 
10. When the buns are completely cold, it's time to make your filling. Put the double cream and the sugar into a large bowl and whisk it until it has become stiff and will hold its shape. (If you are using ice cream just take it out of the freezer and make sure it's scoopable.
11. If you have a pastry bag (cleaned or with a new disposable bag) put the whipped cream in it. Fill the puffs by inserting the tip into the hole you pierced in the side of the puff. If you don't have a pastry bag, just slice open the puffs part way along the side and spoon in the whipped cream - which is what I do.
12. Melt the chocolate either in a bowl over a pot of simmering water or (what I do) put the chocolate in a pyrex  measuring cup and microwave it. Make sure to break the chocolate up into pieces and set the microwave for 20 or 30 seconds. When it pings, check to see if the chocolate is melting. It's ok if it has some lumps left, they will stir out. You can microwave the chocolate for an additional 30 seconds as needed. Stir the chocolate gently to make sure it's smooth. Pour the chocolate into a serving jug.
13. Pile the filled puffs onto a serving plate and if you wish, drizzle some of the chocolate on top.
14. Serve the filled puffs, passing the jug of chocolate alongside so people can take as much sauce as they please.
Optional alternative fillings - pastry custard, cannoli cream, chocolate mousse, sliced strawberries (I add them with the whipped cream)