To heck with New Year’s resolutions. I know the season of over-indulgence is over, but I won’t deny that I’ve stockpiled peppermint ice cream and have frozen Christmas cookies to make sure the season lasts just a tad bit longer. For those who are starting out the New Year with the goal of shedding those holiday pounds, I apologize. You should read no further as this recipe is not for you.
It all started earlier this morning when I had to test a recipe for cream puffs for an upcoming class. No one needs 3 dozen cream puffs lying around their house and I was brainstorming about ways to use the puffs. They freeze beautifully and I was already thinking ahead to making them into savory appetizers filled with crabmeat or chicken salad. Such thinking makes one hungry and before I knew it, I had dug out my carton of peppermint ice cream, melted some semi-sweet chocolate with a little cream, and made myself a delicious peppermint profiterole. Sure you can use vanilla ice cream, but if you are like me and in a bit of depression now that the holidays are officially over, then peppermint ice cream will make you feel much, much better.
Pâté a choux is the French name for the dough that makes cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, and gougeres. It literally means “cabbage dough” and is made by cooking butter, water, and flour and then beating in several eggs. The dough is then piped or spooned on a baking sheet and baked into gorgeous golden brown pastries that are hollow on the inside (perfect for a filling) and crisp on the outside. The dough itself is not sweet and is therefore the perfect vessel for making both sweet and savory creations.
While you might think that such delicacies are only found in the fancy window display of a fine Parisian bakery, they are remarkably easy to make at home and require ingredients that you probably have in your pantry now.
The trickiest part of working with pâté a choux is making sure that the inside of each pastry bakes enough so that it doesn’t turn soggy. To make sure this doesn’t happen, I like to prick each pastry with the tip of a knife or a skewer half way through baking to allow the steam to escape and the pastry to dry out. This pricking will result in the cream puffs collapsing in on themselves, but don’t despair. Once back in the oven, in minutes they will puff up to their original size.
And finally, while the dough can be spooned onto a greased baking sheet, I prefer to pipe it out. If you are like me and your toothpaste tube is a mangled mess thanks to your inability (or lack of desire) to roll it carefully up from the bottom then check out the pictures above for an easy, mess-free way to get the pastry dough into the piping bag. Bon appetit!
Peppermint Profiteroles - Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes about 2 dozen small profiteroles
This recipe makes 2 dozen small profiteroles which is a lot, so remember that they freeze well and can be turned into sweet or savory creations. In short, you won’t be sorry to have these on hand. When ready to use, simply place the puffs in a hot 375 degree oven for a couple of minutes to crisp them up and then use as desired.
For Pàte à Choux:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup bread flour
6 large eggs
For chocolate sauce (see instructions below for quantity)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Peppermint ice cream (about 1 heaping tablespoon per profiterole)
For the pàte à choux, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet with butter.
In a small saucepan, bring the butter, salt, and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the bread flour using a wooden spoon. As you stir, a dough will form that will pull away from the sides of the saucepan. Once this happens, keep stirring for two to three minutes more to cook off any excess water from the dough.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and place the dough in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the dough on high speed for two minutes and then slowly add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition. The dough will not seem to come together right away, but keep adding the eggs and eventually you will get a thick, sticky dough.
Using a piping bag and large tip, pipe the dough into mounds 1 ½-inch wide by 1-inch high on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Pierce each cream puff with a skewer or the tip of a knife and continue baking 10 minutes more. Note: If the profiteroles are browning too quickly, simply reduce the oven to 375 degrees.
Once the puffs are golden brown, turn off the oven and let the puffs sit in the heated oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the top third of each puff off and reserve it.
For the chocolate sauce:
For every two ounces of semi-sweet chocolate add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. The chocolate and cream can be melted over low heat in a small saucepan or microwaved in a small, microwave-safe bowl. If microwaving, microwave the ingredients for 1 minute; then stir. Continue microwaving in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until the chocolate sauce is smooth. If the sauce is too thick add a little more cream.
When ready to serve, scoop a small spoonful of peppermint ice cream (I found that a metal tablespoon worked great for this) into the bottom half of each puff. Place the top of each puff atop the ice cream and drizzle with the hot chocolate sauce. Serve the profiteroles immediately. Enjoy.