I remember I first tried making choux pastry about two or three years ago, back when those nightmare croquembouche towers first started to make an appearance on the Sydney dessert scene, thanks to an episode of Masterchef Australia. Little me didn’t have any grand plans for constructing a tower of cream-filled puffs, held together with rock-hard toffee, spiraled with more molten toffee as fine as fairy wisps, and decorated with edible flowers.
I just wanted to make some cream puffs, and what a roller coaster of emotions making them gave me. I was ecstatic when they turned out picture-perfect from the oven, snapped a picture, then left them to cool. Ten minutes later, I return to the kitchen and every profiterole had deflated into a flat, eggy pancake. I ended up eating the fresh vanilla custard I had made for the purpose of piping the profiterole straight with a spoon. I’ve eaten custard straight with a spoon since I was little but have heard it’s a strange thing to do; surely someone else does it too? Tell me I’m not alone 😦
Recently I’ve seen a few photos popping up on my Instagram of gaudily-decorated eclairs, salted caramel eclairs, eclairs with Christmas nativity scenes on top, you name it. I wondered if choux pastry was really that difficult to make, and after looking through a few recipes, I worked out what my downfall had been those couple of years ago. I had not allowed the steam to escape from the profiterole shells and then baked them for a little longer to let them dry out, and so that was why my shells had collapsed. Armed with this knowledge, I resolved to give profiteroles another go one weekend, before I eventually tackle the exciting further challenge of eclairs!
This recipe made me about 21 profiteroles. Size-wise they are about 2-3 bites each. If you pipe them larger, you will make less, if you pipe them smaller, it naturally follows that you will make more.
You will need:
- 50g butter, chopped;
- 75g (1/2 cup) plain flour;
- 2 eggs, lightly whisked.
For the custard:
- 1/2 cup milk;
- 1/2 cup thickened cream;
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste;
- Two teaspoons cornflour;
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar.
For the chocolate topping:
- 100g good-quality dark chocolate;
- 50ml thickened cream.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius. Combine the butter and half a cup of water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat, ensuring all the butter melts.
Add the flour, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon to incorporate and continue to beat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan (roughly about a minute). Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes or so to cool.
Add the eggs to the paste, one at a time, beating vigorously to combine after each addition before adding the next. It will separate at some stages, so just persevere with the beating. You can put it into an electric mixer so I’ve heard, but it’s so much more rewarding to do it by hand (even if your arm does feel like it might fall off).
To make them into profiteroles, spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 12mm plain nozzle and pipe 3cm mounds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray. Don’t get concerned too much about pointy tips at the end – wet the tip of your finger and press it down lightly to get rid of them.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 degrees Celcius. Take the puffed profiterole shells out, and prick them with a skwer or tip of a small knife and bake until golden and dry (about another five minutes). Keep in mind wherever you poke them that that’s the place where you later on pipe in the custard. If you create too many holes your custard will leak everywhere. Yes, it happened to me (blonde, I tell you..).
Cool the pastries on a wire rack to room temperature before piping.
To make the custard, combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean paste in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly for about five minutes until hot but not boiling. Remove saucepan from heat.
Whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well-combined. Pour the hot milk mixture over the egg yolk mix in a small steady stream, whisking constantly.
Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or so until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the custard to boil, and keep stirring as you don’t want the bottom to burn!
Transfer to a heatproof bowl and cover the surface with cling film before placing in the fridge to cool down. Heat the chocolate and cream together in short. 10 second-bursts in a heatproof bowl in the microwave and stir to create a smooth ganache.
When ready to assemble, fill a piping bag fitted with a long, thin piping nozzle with the cold vanilla custard. Fill the profiteroles carefully until full. Roll the top of each profiterole in the chocolate ganache and then place on a baking tray to chill in the refrigerator and set.
Unfilled cooked pastries will keep in an airtight container for up to three days, while frozen cooked choux can keep in the freezer up to three weeks. These are best eaten immediately as you don’t want the choux to get soggy from the custard. I doubt they would last longer than two days anyway! 😉 xx