I don’t know about you, but I am having a really difficult time getting into the Christmas groove this year. It is certainly cold enough (no snow), but the temperatures are right to feel like Christmas. The stores are all decorated, but certainly not as busy as other years. I know I am not buying stuff that is not needed (although I did make a trip to buy toys at Sur La Table yesterday).
Maybe it is because we do not have young children. Kids love Christmas and getting gifts and all the hoopla that goes along with Santa and the holidays. That is what really makes the holiday fun. Our kids are not kids anymore.
Maybe it is the economy and the war and all the political depressing stuff that is going on in the country. I do not know, but I plan to try harder today when I begin holiday baking. If that doesn’t do it then nothing will! There is nothing better than the smells of homemade cookies and cakes with all the butter, sugar, nuts and spices. So, I will keep you posted on the hopefully positive effects of my cookie baking.
I do know that there is one baked item that always excites me at any time of year and that is profiteroles! I first had them in New Orleans about 20 years ago at Mr. B’s Bistro, a Brennan family restaurant. I had been to Galatoire’s earlier in the evening for dinner and then after a night on Bourbon Street (that place was insane), we went to Mr. B’s for a late night dessert. Since that evening I have been addicted to this wonderful and delectable French delight! And I have tried many versions to make sure I was able to have the exact same dessert that I had in New Orleans many years ago.
I tried a few recipes from some cookbooks when we first got home, but the recipe that I had the best success with was in an old Pillsbury cookbook and the recipe was for cream puffs. Of course, in French, that would be pate au choux. I still actually use this recipe. It is quick and quite good. I do, however, make them smaller than the recipe suggests for a basic cream puff because profiteroles are smaller and you usually serve 2-3 puffs per person for dessert.
Ina Garten’s recipe is very good as well, but much more “eggy”. So, depending upon your taste preference, you can choose either. The nice thing about the Pillsbury recipe is that you can prepare the pastry without a food processor if you do not have one. Pate a choux is also good for many other goodies (eclairs and gougeres, which are French cheese puffs made with Gruyère). The best thing about the puffs themselves is that you can freeze the extras, thaw them, warm and crisp slightly and then have this fabulous dessert almost anytime (although you may not need to be doing that).
I have also tried many chocolate sauce recipes and really have to say that Ina Garten’s is as good as any I have tasted. It is simple to prepare, but it is really rich and delicious and it uses chocolate that you can find in any grocery store (I use Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips). It also reheats well in a double boiler.
And now to the ice cream and maybe the most important component of this wonderful dessert. Haagen-Dazs is still the best, in my opinion, but I have to say that we are really liking Blue Bell’s French Vanilla ice cream. It has a really wonderful, rich flavor (if it is sold where you live I recommend you give it a try). It is quite different from the Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, so once again, that is personal preference.
Or you can try these from Pillsbury:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup margarine or butter (use butter or why bother!)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1/4 teaspoon salt (table salt)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat water and margarine to boiling. Stir in flour and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring vigorously until mixture leaves sides of pan in a smooth compact ball, about 2 minutes (I find a wooden spoon works best for this). Add eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each until mixture is smooth and glossy. Spoon 6 mounds of dough about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool completely (use a wire rack so they do not gather moisture). Split, remove any filaments of soft dough and fill as desired.
* I usually make about 10 puffs because I make them smaller for profiteroles. You will need to bake the smaller puffs about 20-25 minutes. Just keep an eye out to make they do not burn or overcook as your oven make not be precise and these are fussy little things.
No matter which options you choose, you cannot go wrong with this elegant dessert! How can you miss with a cream puff, premium ice cream and homemade dark chocolate sauce?? Of course, do not forget to shake or sift some powdered sugar on the filled and chocolate draped puffs. You will wow your guests and will become a devotee of this delightful dessert. I am sure. I just made them a week or so ago and they are as good as the first time I tasted them at Mr. B’s.