I’ve got a weird relationship with profiteroles. I didn’t know what they were until about 2006, when that movie Paris, je t’aime came out. Its a collection of shorts about the different neighborhoods of Paris. Some of them are funny, some of them are sad, and one of them has Steve Buscemi.
There is one that manages to make me cry every single time I see it. Which is kinda tough, considering I only cry when cats die. Its about a man who is sitting down to what he thinks will be his last meal with his wife; he is about to tell her he wants a divorce so he can marry his much younger mistress. He’s lamenting the fact that she always makes him order profiteroles to share, even though he doesn’t like them much and she ends up eating all of them. Why does he do it, he wonders. But his wife sits down and begins to cry. She tells him she has a terminal illness and will die within the next few months. Immediately all thoughts of leaving her disappear. He breaks up with his mistress via text and begins a sincere and concerted effort to enjoy his last few months with his wife. We see shots of them singing and doing dishes, a sure sign of true love. But in the end, she dies, and he is left, sitting alone in the same cafe with an order of profiteroles in front of him.
To me, profiteroles have always seemed an anomaly. So simple to make but with such a fancy and hard to pronounce name. And I’ve constantly related them to crying after a ten minute short film. Therefore, I had never ordered them in a restaurant until Providence Restaurant Week, Winter 2013.
I went to Chez Pascal for my birthday dinner, and it was wonderful, as per usual. But here’s the thing. There were only two dessert options, and one of them was profiteroles. Ugh. The other problem. I have a pet peeve about ordering the same dish as anyone else, especially during restaurant week. Both my sister and father were ordering the non profiteroles dish I’ve forgotten about. I had to do it.
Profiteroles are basically the pastry shells of cream puffs, cut in half, filled with ice cream, and topped with chocolate sauce. HOW BORING CAN YOU GET. Chez Pascal used maple ice cream and topped them with maple syrup. Which is slightly more interesting. But still.
So they arrived, and, seeing as I had been stuffing my face for the past hour and a half, I was planning on giving them a taste and then finding a way to respectably sit in the fetal position in a fancy restaurant. However, upon first taste, I realized something. Profiteroles are not boring. Profiteroles are simple. Elegant. They combine classic elements of dessert. A crunchy cookie like object, a smooth but cold ice cream, and a silky warm sauce. Since these were maple profiteroles, they tasted like the best waffles I’ve ever had.
Matt made me want to make my own profiteroles. So I did.
I made them specifically to watch with a sad French film, Amour. Set in Paris, the film shows the uncomfortable process of aging. Its by Michael Haneke, an Austrian director best known for his films Funny Games and Caché. His style of filming involves making the viewer feel uncomfortable with what they are watching, which in turn forces the viewer to think about why they are uncomfortable.
But seeing as it was a Saturday night and no one besides me wanted to spend the evening freaking out about getting old, we decided not to watch it. But thats ok, cause my profiteroles were awesome. There were some problems with them. First off, I have no parchment paper, so I cooked the wittle pastries on tin foil, which meant their bottoms were burnt. I sliced off the burnt bits and made little profiterole bowls. Another problem. The grocery store nearby doesn’t have heavy cream. They only have heavy whipping cream. They are not the same thing. Heavy cream has more fat. Which is better. Because fat is good for us. And also makes ice cream creamy. So it was a bit icy, but I just let it soften a bit before serving it. Finally. my white chocolate. Was bought about 8 months ago, in France. It travelled overseas. This seems to have changed it. It did not melt with the heavy whipping cream properly to make a completely smooth sauce. But our apartment is kept very dark, so no one noticed the little flecks of white in the sauce.
Every bit of this recipe comes from my favorite blogger and pastry cook and recipe writer and world traveller and just all around awesome guy that I’ve never met because I chickened out the one time he was doing a book signing in Paris when I was there, David Lebovitz. Check out his blog. He’s good with ice cream.
Profiteroles with Ginger Ice Cream and White Chocolate Sauce
For white chocolate, I suggest Valrhona or Callebaut, but I get that they are more expensive than other supermarket brands. I personally try to only use Valrhona because it is infinitely better than any other white chocolate in the world. This means I make something with white chocolate only once a year because otherwise I would go broke. Find real heavy cream for the ice cream. All recipes adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
Profiteroles: Makes about 30
1 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup (140 grams) flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
Preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (no tin foil here) or a silicone baking mat.
Put the water, sugar, salt, and butter in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add in all the flour. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Let cool for a couple minutes, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth and shiny.
Make little walnut sized mounds of dough using two spoons and drop them onto the baking sheets, making sure to keep them evenly spaced. Beat the final egg yolk and the milk together to make a glaze and brush a small amount on the top of each profiterole shell.
Bake for 30 minutes. They will be puffed and browned. Turn off the oven and let them stay inside for another 5 minutes.
Best eaten same day, freeze well.
Ginger Ice Cream: Makes about 1 quart
3 ounces (85 grams) fresh, unpeeled ginger
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
Cut the ginger in half lengthwise and then cut it into thin slices. Put it in a medium non-reactive saucepan with enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes then drain and discard the water.
Put the ginger, milk, 1 cup of the cream, the sugar, and the salt in the saucepan. Heat until the sugar melts, then cover and let steep for 1 hour at room temperature.
Rewarm the mixture. Remove the ginger slices (best done with a slotted spoon). Put the remaining 1 heavy cream in to a large bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl. Put the bowl in an even larger bowl with an ice bath inside of it.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Pour some of the warmed milk and cream mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk constantly while doing so. Then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon or a heat proof spatula. Once the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, remove from the heat and immediately pour through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Let it cool over the ice bath, stirring once in a while to speed up the process.
Chill for at least 10 hours, preferably overnight, and then freeze it in your ice cream maker.
White Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped, relatively new
Warm the cream in a small saucepan. Don’t let it boil, just get it hot, then remove it from the heat and stir in the white chocolate until completely melted. Voila sauce! Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for 5 days in da fridge.
To put it all together!
Cut the profiteroles in half, at their midsection, put some ice cream in the middle, and top with warmed sauce. Very simple. Very delicious. Also next time, I promise some photos. All this text is daunting, don’t ya think?