This week we’ve been house-sitting in Axbridge, providing us with a nice big kitchen to play in and a number of exciting new cookbooks to leaf through. We’ve also had the spare time to devote to some slightly more involved recipes that we wouldn't normally attempt mid-week. (Chicken risotto with home-made chicken stock, french onion soup and profiteroles were the highlights, pigeon and mash with red wine reduction was also very good).
Looking through James Martin's Desserts book (beautifully presented but seems to have received mixed reviews in terms of ingredients measurements - not sure if I'll buy this one for myself or not) I spotted a profiterole recipe. Profiteroles have always been one of my favourite desserts, but - and this is essential - only when they have a set chocolate coating. To me the resistance offered by the thick chocolate makes a world of difference from the otherwise soggy homogenous, but admittedly tasty, mess that results from the standard hot sauce presentation. When they're cold you can pick them up and eat them like chocolate eclairs, with a challenging explosive cream element, which to me is very important.
The recipe below is adapted from James, the deviations are discussed in the method. He says to serve with hot chocolate sauce, like so many others he is of course wrong. It's not how my mum makes them.
If you are of a strong enough constitution, they make an excellent addition to breakfast.
Choux pastry is a funny beast and I'm still not sure that I've got it quite right, I will definitely try again soon though and have made a mental note to check what Harold McGee has to say on the matter.
Our guests were impressed with the presentation and the fact that I'd attempted choux pastry, which was nice. Personally, I thought that they were a reasonable success, some were a touch over cooked perhaps, but plenty of cream and chocolate helped to cover that. Next time, I would use more chocolate and consider drizzling white chocolate finely over the tops (to set) and provide a bit more contrast.
Jen likes a chocolate sauce but demands an ice cream filling. I appreciate where she's going with hot and cold contrast, but it's the added texture that I'm after...
200ml semi skimmed milk
150g plain flour
3 duck eggs
200g dark choclate
- Turn on oven to gas mark 7 (220C ish)
- Pour water and milk in pan (was meant to be 125ml of full fat and 125ml water but I was lazy and we only had semi skimmed...) add the butter, salt and sugar and bring to the boil for a minute or so.
- Sift flour onto greaseproof paper, take the pan off the heat and then dump in the flour whilst stirring madly (received wisdom is that the flour needs to go in fast - I think the paper trick comes from Delia).
- Once flour is in the pan and you have a cohesive blob that pulls away from the sides of the pan, return it to the heat and keep stirring. The dough makes some odd soft popping noises as the water comes out of it, keep stirring for a couple of minutes.
- Take off the heat and let the pan cool for 5 mins whilst cleaning up a bit.
- Add the eggs one by one to the dough stirring as much as possible (it was four medium eggs in the recipe but 3 large free range duck eggs was all we had).
- Once the eggs are in, grease a baking tray and then drop blobs of the mixture onto the tray (a little smaller than golf ball size). Keep them a little bit apart as they will expand when cooking. Mr Martin suggested using wet fingers to smooth the blobs - this seemed like a pointless faff to me, but it does stop any pointy bits from burning so perhaps is worth the effort.
- Put tray in oven and then throw a mug of water into another oven tray at the bottom of the oven, apparently this is good for helping the pastry rise - This was also a JM suggestion, not sure it makes a difference but it was fun. After 20 minutes, or when the profiteroles are nicely golden, remove from the oven and turn them over.
- Make a small hole in the bottom or side of each profiterole to let the steam out and hot oven air in and put them back in the oven for 5 minutes (my second batch got left in for 10 minutes at this point and suffered as a consequence - see the top one in the picture). I had to do 2 batches due to lack of trays, if I'd had the trays, I'd have done both at the same time.
- Once the profiteroles are cooling on a rack, melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. When the profiteroles are warm rather than hot to the touch, dip them in the chocolate and transfer them to a plate. Drizzle any extra chocolate over the profiteroles once each has had an initial covering. Transfer plate to fridge.
- Whip the cream fairly stiff with a touch of sugar and put in the fridge.
- Leave the lot for an hour and a half. When the chocolate is set, take each profiterole and slit it across one side, open it out and insert a generous teaspoon of whipped cream.
- Pile profiteroles artfully and then insert into face. Leave some in the fridge and try one in the morning as a pudding after breakfast - amazing!