Monday, June 10, 2013
Don't Freak Out: Chocolate Cream Filled Profiteroles
Tonight I watched a swarm of about 20 birds (don't ask me which ones - I'm terrible when it comes to birds) descend upon my birdbath in the rock garden. I was just noshing on the last few leaves of my salad and suddenly, from out of nowhere, these feathered friends decided to take a bath together. It was fascinating stuff. Some would hang back and wait their turn before jumping in. Others would bully the smaller birds into retreating. I was kinda captivated. For some reason this birdbath gets plenty of avian action. In the morning, just after I've woken up and fed the fur babies their fancy feast, I take a peek out the window and more often than not there is a fat robin or even fatter blue jay splashing around like crazy. I don't know why it makes me happy to see them having so much fun, but it does. Especially when they shake all of the water off. That's the best part. Along with their wet heads. I love it. It's these small moments at either end of my day which grab my attention and hold it. Little reminders, I suppose, that life is full of big and small and in-between moments, and for whatever reason the simple sight of a bird washing its feathers is enough to ease me into or out of that good night.
There has been no shortage of big and small moments around here. I started a new job and I kinda love it (more details to follow shortly - I promise!); my sister recently had a beautiful baby girl, making me the luckiest auntie on Earth. Holding a fresh baby, with that fresh baby smell, is one of the best feelings. Soul-stirring, really. My sis also recently celebrated a birthday, which meant I got to bring dessert to the party. And just between you and me, I had a mad hankering to eat a cream puff. Profiterole. Same deal. Just sounds more fancy pants.
People freak out about making cream puffs. And really, save your freak for something more serious, which for me would be making croissant dough or carving a pig at a pig roast or any moment which requires public speaking. That's when I freak. With cream puffs, once you get the technicalities down, you're golden. And at the end of it all, you get to pop a chocolate cream filled pastry into your mouth, and you'll know why the effort is totally worth it. Even better is watching your 4 year old niece nail three in a sitting, while her sister, just a year younger, quietly, yet methodically, licks out every last bit of cream between the layers of pastry. Girls after my own heart, those two.
Choux paste. Have you guys heard of it? It's a dough made from water, butter, sugar, salt, flour and eggs. You'll have to cook it on the stove for about 5 minutes - that's important. Then you beat in 4 or 5 eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Don't forget to do that. Then with your trusty piping bag and tip, or empty piping bag because you can't find your tip (ahem) or even using 2 teaspoons, you quickly pipe out little rounds of dough. Be sure your oven is cranked to 450*F - this will give them a huge lift - then reduce the temp down so they finish baking. Technical, but understandable, right? They should come out golden and lofty and ready to be filled with a simple chocolate whipped cream. Or you can keep it vanilla, or booze it up with bourbon or give it some sweetness with maple syrup. Just don't be scared to give these a go. I've recently undertaken a pretty monumental task at my new job, and I have to tell myself repeatedly: don't be scared; you can do this. Self talk - I'm all up in it. And maybe that's what the birds are trying to tell me, too.
Chocolate Cream Filled Profiteroles
1 cup water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cane sugar (or granulated)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4-5 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream
4 tbsp cocoa
6 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla
powdered sugar for garnish
fresh strawberries or other berries
To make profiteroles: place rack in center and upper third of oven. Preheat to 450*F.
Line two bakesheets with parchment paper.
In medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once butter melts and mixture is bubbling, lower heat a little bit and add flour all at once. Stir immediately using wooden spoon or heat proof spatula. Stir until the mixture is thick and pulls away from sides of saucepan, forms a mass and the bottom of pan is clean. Cook the dough over low heat. This allows the moisture to evaporate and allows more fat to absorb when eggs are added. Stir the dough for 5 minutes. When the dough steams a little and smells kinda nutty, you're doing good.
Immediately transfer dough to bowl of stand mixer with paddles attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, cooling the dough down. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating each egg until thoroughly incorporated. Be sure to stop mixer and scrape down bowl after each addition. After beating the last egg mixture should be glossy and thick, but still pourable. When scooped into a spoon, the dough should slowly pour off the spoon. If it doesn't fall off, or comes off in one big lump, beat in the fifth egg.
Scoop the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip (or just use two teaspoons, or an empty pastry bag like I did). Pipe or scoop out the dough so they are about 1 1/2 inches across and about 3/4 inch tall. It might be messy and you might have to work quickly. Don't crowd them - leave about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate pans from bottom shelf to top and reduce heat to 350*F. Bake for 15 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before filling with chocolate cream.
Pour in whipping cream into bowl of stand mixer. Beat on high until medium peaks form. Sift in 2 tbsp cocoa, 4 tbsp powder sugar and vanilla. Beat until thick peaks form. Taste, and if you feel it needs more cocoa and sugar, sift more in until desired taste is reached.
Slice in half each of the cream puffs and scoop the chocolate cream onto the bottom half. Top with the other half and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with fruit. Makes about 24 cream puffs.