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“One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” Henry Ward Beecher

October 5, 2011

The first experience I ever had with profiteroles involved a frozen blue bucket from Costco.  I remember the bucket would appear, magically, in the freezer and then vanish within a week not to be seen again for months.

The bucket was enigmatic.  The bucket was intriguing.  The bucket had a title, “Cream Puffs,” and a picture of what looked liked doughnut holes with an ice cream center.  The bucket was also gigantic, at least as big as a watermelon.  I remember being so captivated by the thought of a baked item being filled with ice cream.  How did they do it?  In my eight year old head, I imagined a kind of pastry wizard creating unmeltable ice cream, forming them into little balls, dipping them in doughnut batter (my eight year old self had no knowledge of doughs or batters, or the difference between the two), and then baking them in the oven for hours.  These cream puffs were special.  They were magical.

Of course, I was slightly disappointed when I was informed me that, in fact, the cream was injected into the already baked puff, in a semi-liquid state, and then hardened in the freezer.  I tried to make do with the new facts.  I re-imagined the pastry wizard into a kind of evil pastry surgeon, running around with syringes and injecting puffs and people alike.  But it just didn’t have the same appeal.

I was likewise disappointed when I actually got around to eating one of the cream puffs.  The texture that seemed most right to encase a delicious ball of ice cream was something soft, with a slight bite to it — something sweet and brioche-like.  Instead, what I got was a tasteless, concrete-hard, eggy mess.  It was appalling.  I mistrusted my mom’s {the cream puff monger} dessert judgement from that day forth, favoring my dad’s more kid-friendly palate — mint chip ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, brownies.

Well, time flew, I went to college, studied abroad in France, and long story short, tried real profiteroles in a little café in Marseilles and was blown away.  Lesson learned:  never hold food grudges against an entire group of dessert because the Costco brand was less than impressive.

I decided to recreate a more rustic {rustic = not necessarily pretty} version of profiteroles…they are amazing with the traditional vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  I was super crazy lazy and only made the little choux balls, using store bought {Frans} chocolate sauce and {Breyers} vanilla bean ice cream.

Here is the recipe for choux!

1 pint water

3.5 oz butter

.5 oz sugar

.125 oz salt

9 oz bread flour

1 pint whole eggs

Bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a rolling boil in a large stainless steel pot.  Turn off the heat and add the flour — stir vigorously with a large wooden spoon until flour no longer shows.  Turn the heat back on, and continuously stir {with some degree of verve} until the dough is dryish — there should be a thin, crepe-like skin on the bottom of the pot, and the dough should pull away from the sides.  Place the dough into a mixer, with a paddle, and mix until the bowl is no longer hot to the touch.  Slowly add the eggs in, one at a time, and mix until incorporated.  I like to let the dough rest about a half an hour before piping/baking…make sure you cover the surface with plastic wrap, though, or it will form a skin.

Pipe in whatever shape you desire — for profiteroles, small spheres are appropriate.  You can also do what I did, which was slap some of the dough down on a baking sheet with a spoon — this creates a rougher, more textured puff than traditional pastry shops vaunt.

Bake in a convection oven at 350*F for the first 30 minutes, reduce to 300*F and bake for another 15 minutes.

Next up:  Show-piece show-off

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