There's no need to spend hours in the kitchen concocting a laborious dessert this holiday season. Let's embrace the “less is more” mantra, and make a stunning (but do-able) dessert that will receive "oohs and ahhs" from your dinner guests.
Profiteroles are a classic French dessert made from a light pastry dough called Pâte à Choux. It consists of nothing more than butter, water, flour, eggs and sometimes sugar, and gets its puffiness from the steam that's created during baking. The baked puffs are then cut in half crosswise to create a top and a bottom, filled with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and topped with warm chocolate sauce. Oh, you say you want to add a shot of espresso to your chocolate sauce? Please do!
The dough is so incredibly versatile that it's also used to make Croquembouche (a pyramid of custard-filled profiteroles draped in caramel and wrapped in spun sugar), Cream Puffs, Eclairs, Gougères, Churros, and Parisian Gnocchi, just to name a few.
Profiteroles are my go-to dessert this holiday season for many reasons:
- They are very easy to make, and will take no time at all, allowing you to focus on other things.
- You probably already have all of the ingredients at home you need to make them so you can make them in a pinch.
- The puffs can be sweet or savory.
- To make a savory version, also known as Gougères, reduce the sugar to 1/4 teaspoon. After all of the eggs have been incorporated mix in 1 1/2 cups of a dry grated cheese such as Gruyere, Parmesan or cheddar. Perhaps you might like the idea of folding in little bits of cooked and crumbled bacon. Maybe even some fresh herbs or thinly sliced scallions. They make such a fantastic hors d’oeuvre!! Watch The Chopping Block's Owner/Chef Shelley Young make Gougères in this video.
- You can fill the sweet puffs with whipped cream, pastry cream, chocolate mousse, or jelly, and savory puffs can be filled with mixtures like blue cheese mousse, crab salad, or artichoke and spinach dip.
- You can freeze the baked puffs. Just recrisp them in a 400° oven for 7 to 8 minutes.
- They are very portable. Transporting a cake can be quite challenging, but not so with the puffs. Place the puffs in a sealable bag, bring your chocolate sauce in a container and have the host or hostess provide the ice cream. All you have to do is rewarm the chocolate sauce and assemble.
- They’re a crowd pleaser. Who doesn't like profiteroles?
- If there's a gluten free guest at the table, no problem! Just remove the puff… ice cream and chocolate sauce are pretty good by themselves, too!
Profiteroles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce
Yield: 9-10 large puffs; 2 dozen medium-size puffs
Active time: 20 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Vanilla ice cream as needed
1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, salt, sugar and butter. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
3. Add the flour all at once, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour is smoothly incorporated. Cook, stirring, for one additional minute.
4. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated.
5. Use a 4-ounce (#16) scoop to portion batter onto parchment- lined sheet trays, allowing at least 1-inch in between. Bake until very brown and crisp, about 35 minutes.
6. Allow to cool at room temperature. Slice in half horizontally, fill with ice cream, and top with Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows).
NOTE: Other fillings can include whipped cream or pastry cream. Baked profiteroles should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. Baked profiteroles can also be frozen prior to filling. Thawed or day-old profiteroles will become soft; if you wish, you can re-crisp them in a 400º oven for 6 to 7 minutes, and then cool before filling.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 10 minutes
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
If you can think of any other wonderful reasons why Profiteroles are so great, please leave a comment for me below.
The holiday season is busy enough on its own. Don't get bogged down by complicated, multi-step recipes. Take some simple ingredients and turn them into an impressive and memorable finish to your feast.
Need more holiday baking help? Download our new guide to Be a Better Baker.