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Treat of the Week: Perfect Profiteroles

Monday, May 16, 2011

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A profiterole, known in the U.S. as a cream puff, or, in France as a “choux à la crème,” is a delicious pastry shell filled with rich French pastry cream. The shell of the cream puff is formed from choux paste which is piped onto a baking sheet and then puffed during the baking process. Choux paste (Pâte à choux) is the term given to a type of pastry dough which contains butter, water, flour and eggs and puffs due to its high moisture content as opposed to a rising agent such as yeast. This process has been employed by bakers since the mid Sixteenth Century.


The hollow pastry balls are filled with pastry cream (sometimes whipped cream, ice cream or even a savory Pâte can be used). The profiterole can be topped with a glaze of chocolate or caramel, powdered sugar, fruit or other frostings. When a group of profiteroles is assembled into a pièce montée, it is called a croquembouche. Croquembouches are often served at weddings and on Christmas in France.

It’s been a long time since my mother has prepared some of her magnificent cream puffs, so the appearance of these profiteroles was an especially nice surprise this weekend. With their delicate French pastry cream and tender choux shell (there’s a tongue twister), they’re perfect already, but even more so when topped with a lovely chocolate ganache.

If you’d like to try your hand at making profiteroles, you can find a variety of online recipes. Select the one that most appeals to you, and then try some different fillings. You can’t go wrong.

 
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