This dessert takes some time to prepare, and is better to make for a crowd than for two. There are three stages to the recipe: making the cream puffs, making the chocolate sauce, and assembling the dessert.
1) First, make the cream puffs.
This recipe makes about 36 puffs, which may well be more than you need. But they freeze well – and can be easily defrosted and reheated on another occasion.
1/2 cup (10 cl) water
1/2 cup (10 cl) milk
1/4 pound (110 g.) butter
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (140 g.) flour
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 220 C). Prepare a baking sheet: cover with parchment paper or, if that is not available, grease with butter.
Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, pour in the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended.
Place the saucepan back over medium heat and continue beating with the wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.
Make a well in the middle of the mixture and break an egg into it. Mix thoroughly with the wooden spoon until the egg is completely incorporated into the dough. Repeat one by one with the other four eggs. Now your dough is ready, and should be used while still warm.
On the baking sheet, place a spoonful of dough about the size of a large walnut to form each cream puff. Do not place them too close together, for they will double in size. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Be careful: if you remove the puffs too soon, they may collapse. Allow to cool before serving.
2) Now, make the chocolate sauce.
The cognac is optional and may be omitted or replaced by another flavoring — coffee, crème de cassis, Calvados, etc.
1/2 pound (200 g.) semi-sweet dark chocolate
4 tbsp. milk
4 tsp. cognac
Melt the chocolate over low heat. As it begins to melt, stir in the milk and cognac. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more milk.
3) Finally, assemble the dessert.
These quantities will serve 6 people. Adjust as necessary.
18 cream puffs
3 cups (3/4 liter) vanilla ice cream
Split the cream puffs in two. Place a small scoop of ice cream inside each puff. Place 3 filled puffs on each plate and drizzle with the hot chocolate sauce. Serve at once.
So, hey, Meg, why are they called profiteroles? Who profits? I don’t get it. Could we alternatively call them minderbinders after the war profiteer Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22?
xxBruce, your brother, the creampuff
I’m glad you asked that question. As it happens, the name does derive from the word ‘profit’, although at the time, in the 16th century, when used in the diminutive (‘profiterolle’), it had a different connotation, meaning ‘a little special something extra’, or as we’d say in current French, ‘un petit plus.’
Rabelais used the word in his hilarious bawdy novel about the wayward giant Pantagruel. At the time, a profiterole wasn’t a cream puff but rather a small cake cooked in the embers. (How they did this without getting ashes all over everything is a mystery to me.)
By the 17th century, profiterole had evolved to mean a small roll stuffed with a mixture of offal and cream, and served in soup. Happily for those of us who prefer the current version, within 100 years it had evolved again to its current meaning: a chocolate-covered cream puff filled with ice cream.
Faithfully, The Everyday French Chef (aka your sister)