I know this is an awful way to start a post, but for the sake of honesty let me start with a disclaimer: most profiteroles are pretty lousy. The general concept is awesome – baked cream puffs filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. The problem is, it’s rare to order them when eating out and have them served properly. Instead of being constructed a la minute (last minute) at the time of the order, they’re too often pre-made and held in a freezer so when they’re served the ice cream is a rock, the choux pastry is cold and dry, and the chocolate sauce quickly thickens and loses a lot of its appeal. I would like to rectify this situation. I’m going to share my recipe for profiteroles, which I think is a pretty good one, but I’m going to ask that you promise you’ll serve them correctly, with just as much care as you took in making them. Ok, deal.
By the way, in the French sense of the word a profiterole is a cream puff that can be filled with any manner of cream or custard. Here in the U.S., I think it’s safe to say we think of them as a cream puff filled with ice cream (usually vanilla), and topped with chocolate sauce or ganache. The U.S. version is the kind we’re going to make today, but of course you can fill your cream puffs with whatever your heart desires.
There’s no such thing as a true American profiterole in my book without chocolate sauce. Today, we’re going back to a very special (and a really delicious) chocolate – Guittard’s Eureka Works 150th Anniversary Limited Edition 62%. I used this chocolate in my recipe for a chocolate cherry tart not too long ago, and it works just as well for this week’s dish. You can buy the chocolate for a limited time (I link to that in the recipe below as well) and I highly suggest you give it a try.
Croustillant is a French pastry term that is fairly general but basically means a crust or thin crunchy element. We’re adding this crunch to our cream puffs (also known as pate a choux) as an outer coating that will give the puff some sweetness and texture but also help them to bake evenly with good expansion.
Like I said before, a good profiterole is as much about service as anything else. I recommend only serving them with a last minute preparation; don’t cut the cream puff or add the ice cream to it until they are ready to serve. Cutting the cream puff too early will allow air into the inner pocket of dough, which will quickly dry it out ruining the texture. Similarly, adding ice cream to the puff too early creates the immediate need to freeze the puff to keep the ice cream stable, but that dries out the cream puff too.
All of this doesn’t mean you have to do tons of work the minute before serving this to your guests. The cream puffs can be made and baked well in advance (even frozen if you make them days out), as long as they are given a quick blast of heat in the oven to bring them back to life. I usually throw them back in the oven at 300F for about 3-4min.
The ice cream can be scooped ahead of time as well, and simply kept on a frozen and wrapped sheet pan in the freezer until needed.
On the topic of ice cream, I’m giving you guys my vanilla ice cream recipe in the recipe card, but linking to my recipe for it here and in the method section. If you don’t have an ice cream machine and don’t plan to get one, buying some premium vanilla ice cream is ok. I promise I won’t tell anyone.
180g heavy cream
90g chocolate, 62% Guittard Eureka Works Limited Edition
20g butter unsalted
Chop the chocolate and reserve.
Heat the heavy cream until it just comes to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate.
Add the butter and let the mixture set for 1-2min.
Whisk the mixture until is is fully homogenized and glossy (which is evidence of good emulsification).
Reserve the chocolate sauce in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Gently heat it in the microwave to the consistency you’d like.
cream puff croustillant
90g all-purpose flour
70g butter unsalted
Combine all of the ingredients and mix in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until a dough forms.
If you have two non-stick baking mats, roll the room temp. dough between them to 1/8″/3mm and chill or freeze it until it is firm enough to cut. If you are using parchment paper, first wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest it in the cooler for a minimum of 1hour and up to overnight.
Allow the dough to soften until it will roll without cracking, and roll the dough to 1/8”/3mm thick.
Cut rounds out using a 2.4″/60mm ring cutter. At this point you can freeze the rounds if you plan to use them later.
Hold the rounds in the freezer or cooler until the pate a choux is ready.
160g whole milk
140g butter unsalted
200g bread flour
300g whole eggs about 6 eggs
Sift your flour before getting started. Combine the water, whole milk, salt, sugar and butter together in a sauce pot.
Bring the mix up to a boil (but not before all the butter is melted!) and turn off the heat.
Add the flour all at once. I use a whisk to begin to incorporate the flour, whisking from the center out until the mixture thickens. Then, switch to a spatula to finish incorporating all of the flour.
Turn the heat back on high and stir the dough until a thin film of cooked flour forms on the bottom of the pot, about 1-2min. Mixing the full length of time will help to dry the dough out as well as allow starch to gelatinize and protein to denature.
Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and mix with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate into the dough and scraping the bowl before adding more.
The dough is ready when it is smooth and shiny with slight elasticity.
Pipe your cream puff batter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick mat, giving the puff space from one another to allow proper airflow in the oven during baking. I piped these to 2″/5cm in diameter.
Place the chilled rounds of croustillant in the center of each puff. The heat from the batter will gently warm the croustillant and allow it to conform to the sides of the puff naturally and evenly.
Bake at 375-380F. The larger than normal size and the insulating effect of the croustillant will extend the baking time of the puffs. My new kitchen has an electric stove with a heating coil and I baked the puffs at 380F for 30min. then reduced the temp. to 350F, rotated the pans (including switching baking rack placement) and continued to bake them for another 20-25min.
vanilla ice cream
For the vanilla ice cream method, check out my recipe here!
Carefully cut the puff in two. Ideally the puff is freshly baked and just cool enough to handle. If you have baked the puffs and held them for a day (or more), I recommend heating them in a 350F/176C oven for about 5-8min. and then let them cool once more before assembling.
Fill the puff with a generous scoop of ice cream.
Add the top half of the puff and cover liberally with chocolate sauce. Serve immediately!