Shoe paste? Pat a shoe? What the heck are these people talking about?
Profitawho? Profitawhat? Come on now, stop speaking nonsense and tell me what I need to know. Can I make it, can I eat it, and does it taste good? Well, I'm here to tell you ...
Yes, yes, and OH MAMA, yes! I'm here to help you explore one of the most essential of all baked pastries, pâte à choux. Pronounced paht-a-zshu if you are using your best French accent, or pat-a-shoe if not.
It's also known as choux, or choux paste for short, hence the “shoe paste” confusion. (Remember your dad's collection of little tins of Kiwi shoe polish?) As if that weren't bad enough, choux is also called cream puff pastry, as in Whole Grain Cream Puff Pastry.
Let's demystify a bit to start with.
Choux is the French word for cabbage. After baking, choux puffs look like little cabbages, so it's a pretty appropriate name. Choux paste is also very versatile. It's the base that makes cream puffs, éclairs, and profiteroles. What's the difference between those three things anyway?
The classic cream puff is a pastry shell split and filled with sweetened whipped cream. Period.
A variation on the classic cream puff is a small to medium-sized puff filled with pastry cream, and topped with chocolate ganache (or not).
Eclairs are very similar – filled with pastry cream, topped with ganache – but their shape is long and torpedo-like, as opposed to small and puffy.
Profiteroles are shaped like cream puffs, but are filled with ice cream instead of whipped cream or pastry cream; and topped with ganache. The puffs can also be filled with savory creams and spreads for appetizers.
Choux paste can be dropped by spoonfuls for baking, but is most elegant when piped from a pastry bag into fancy shapes like swans, or stacked to form a croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake of stacked, caramel-dipped cream puffs surrounded with spun sugar.
As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the fancy dessert. I also adore bite-sized treats that can be eaten out of hand while gabbing away with friends. Bite-sized profiteroles filled with homemade ice cream are perfect for summer entertaining. You can bake the puffs well ahead of time and freeze them until the day you need them, then just thaw and fill, giving you big bang for your dessert bucks and keeping the kitchen cool.
I do want to give you all a heads-up that this particular blog is longer than some. But it covers both the recipe and techniques for the profiteroles, AND the recipe and method for the Blueberry Cream Pie Ice Cream. Just like the puffs, you can take it in small bites and enjoy over a whole afternoon. You can even put your feet up on the desk when no one is looking, I'll never tell.
Let's start with the Whole Grain Cream Puff Pastry.
Place the water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
Bring to a boil. This isn't quite there yet.
Much better, big rolling bubbles. As soon as the whole surface of the liquid has these large bubbles, you can add the flours.
Remove the pan from the heat. Dump the flours in all at once and stir vigorously to combine the wet and dry.
Return the pan to the heat and continue to cook until the dough forms a soft ball. Be sure to keep stirring to avoid scorching the bottom of the pan.
When the mixture comes off of the stove, it will be very hot. If you try to add the eggs now, they'll scramble; so you need to wait for the mix to cool down. 140°F is what we're shooting for.
Well, it was 140°F when I tested it but by the time I found the camera from where I put it down and got it set up, it was just a bit lower than that. No worries, as long as it's still close we're good to go.
Add the first egg and whisk vigorously. The mixture will still be quite thick but will begin to thin out as the egg is incorporated.
Once the first egg is fully incorporated add the rest of the eggs in the same manner until all of the eggs are in the batter.
Quite a difference in texture, eh? The batter is ready to be scooped or piped onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The parchment is essential for these to come off of the pan easily.
For very evenly sized profiteroles, I chose the tablespoon cookie scoop. It worked like a charm. Be sure to leave plenty of space between puffs as they will, well, puff quite a bit and nearly double in size.
You can pipe the batter through a piping bag if you wish; it's just like working with thick icing. In fact, that's how éclairs are made, with batter piped in long thin lines.
Profiteroles are like popovers. Positively NO Peeking! Keep the oven door shut during the baking time to avoid having your puffs collapse.
Bake the puffs for 8 minutes at 475°F. Keeping the door shut, reduce the temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. At this point, you can crack the oven open about 1”, turn off the heat completely, and let the puffs cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes you can remove the puffs, cool to room temperature, and use immediately; or store in the freezer until needed.
The great thing about cream puff and profiterole shells is that they can be baked well ahead of time and frozen until you need them. Having a batch in the freezer during the summer months means fancy bite-sized desserts on very short notice. Just add ice cream and fruits, or combine both in this Blueberry Cream Pie Ice Cream.
What's a cream pie without crust? This ice cream features pieces of graham cracker crust, a textural counterpart to the creamy base and smooth pie filling.
Combine the graham crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Mix well until it's the texture of wet sand.
Turn the crumbs out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can re-use one from baking the profiteroles, if you want. There's no need to dirty a pie pan for this, just press the crumbs into an even layer. You don't have to make it round either, but some habits are hard to break.
Bake the crust until lightly browned around the edges and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. If you want very crisp pieces in your ice cream, you can bake a bit longer; just watch for scorching. Set the crust aside to cool.
For the vanilla ice cream base, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl or large measuring cup.
Sprinkle on the Pastry Cream mix. This is my personal secret to a rich and creamy ice cream. If you don't have it you can leave it out, but I really think it adds so much to the texture I won't do without it anymore. Call me stubborn, but I loves me ice cream creamy.
Whisk well until the dry filling mix is completely dissolved. If you work quickly the base will still be quite cold and can go into the ice cream maker immediately. If it's not very very cold, put it in the fridge for a few hours, or even overnight.
This red hot rod of an ice cream maker is terrific. You simply freeze the core for 24 hours before using, and you're good to go. I store the core in my freezer full time, so I can make ice cream at the drop of a hat.
Place the frozen core in the machine, add the plastic dasher and the pretty ruffled cover.
It's important to turn the machine on and let it begin to spin before adding the ice cream base. If you pour first, you may get a clump of frozen base that the dasher can't cope with so start first then pour. Mmmm, good to the last drop.
Another favorite feature on this machine is the fact that you really can set it and walk away. No need to scrape down the sides or stir, it's all done for you. Twenty minutes later it's soft serve and ready to be removed from the machine.
Because the ice cream is still soft at this point, it does need a few hours in the freezer to ripen, or freeze solid. I like to make my ice cream in the morning so that it's ready by dinner time. (Technically, that should be dessert time, but you can read all you want into my slip-up).
Now comes the fun part. Layer about 1/3 of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container.
Add a generous helping of graham crust pieces.
Spoon on several dollops of your favorite blueberry pie filling. I love our Blueberry Pie Filling for this, but Solo also makes a great canned filling, or use homemade. (You do know of course that you can use other fruit fillings, right? Cherry filling is definitely on my list to try.)
Repeat the layers until all of the ice cream is used. You'll most likely have pie filling and crust left over, but both can be kept in the freezer for future batches.
Cover the container well and freeze for several hours to ripen. Ah, sweet torture!
Here's a spare core in our test kitchen freezer. Keep it lightly wrapped in plastic and you, too, can be the ice cream maven of your block whenever the mood strikes.
With the cleanup done, let's get these babies put together for feasting.
Here are our profiterole puffs, golden brown and ready for filling.
Use a sharp knife or slim pair of scissors to remove the top of the puffs. You'll see the tender internal structure that makes them so melt-in-your-mouth good. Remove a bit of it if you need to, to make room for the ice cream.
I tried two different-sized scoops for filling the puffs. The scoop on the left is the tablespoon scoop, with the teaspoon scoop on the right. While these are supposed to be bite-sized, I felt the smaller scoop just didn't do it for me; the profiteroles looked a bit skimpy. You can choose your favorite, but I much preferred the larger scoop.
Oh yeah, that's the ticket! Cold sweet berries, rich and creamy vanilla ice cream, the graham crust, all in a crisp two-bite shell. My fellow baker, Tara, said it was just like having blueberry pie à la mode but BETTER! I guess you can't ask for a better compliment than that.