When I was planning the menu for Saturday night’s dinner, I asked my friend Maggie for her preferences, as it was to be the last night of her visit from London. When she opted for French (bistro, not fancy), I took a moment to enjoy the appropriate Bon Voyage-ness of it all. And, after that self-indulgence, I knew exactly where to turn for recipes. Gourmet‘s March issue was dedicated to bistro fare. And, as the many dog-eared pages will attest, the issue left me inspired. But, truth be told, I didn’t even need to crack open the magazine to get inspired. The issue had me at the cover, which featured the profiteroles you see here.
Welllllll, these profiteroles are almost the same as the ones on the cover of Gourmet, save for the chocolate sauce. I had the best intentions to create the cognac-spiked sauce that the recipe called for, but after I burned the sugar in the very first step (apparently, me and caramel are just not meant to be), I gave up.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Wellllll, I kind of gave up. I jumped ship on the Gourmet recipe and switched to Ina Garten’s recipe for the chocolate sauce she uses to cloak her profiteroles. And, when that one flopped too, I truly gave up. I was already $20 of 60% Callebaut in, so I decided to buy a $5 jar of pre-made chocolate sauce from a gourmet grocery in our neighborhood.
Aside from the chocolate sauce debacle, these profiteroles were delicious and very fun to make. My arm muscles would like to thank the recipe’s creators for suggesting an electric hand mixer for the final stages of making the pâte à choux. And the joy of sliding trays dotted with humble mounds of dough into the oven, only to pull out puffed, golden orbs a few minutes later is hard to match. Welllllll, it was actually pretty easy to match. And I’ll tell you how: slice the orbs open, tuck in a scoop of ice cream (the recipe called for coffee ice cream, but next time I’ll probably stick to vanilla, flecked with specks of vanilla beans) and drizzle it with chocolate sauce (and if you bought it at the store, just don’t tell).
Profiteroles with Coffee Ice Cream
1 quart coffee ice cream
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
For chocolate sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
7 ounce fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy (optional)
Chill a small metal baking pan in freezer. Form 18 ice cream balls with scoop and freeze in chilled pan at least 1 hour (this will make serving faster).
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a large baking sheet.
Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.
Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet.*
Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Prick each profiterole once with a skewer, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.
Make chocolate sauce:
Heat sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
Remove from heat, then add cream and a pinch of salt (mixture will bubble and steam). Return to heat and cook, stirring, until caramel has dissolved.
Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted, then whisk in vanilla and Cognac (if using). Keep warm, covered.
Halve profiteroles horizontally, then fill each with a ball of ice cream. Put 3 profiteroles on each plate and drizzle generously with warm chocolate sauce.
* I used a small, spring-loaded ice cream scoop to make the mounds. And I used the same scoop for the ice cream.