Maple Cream Profiteroles with Their Holiday Caps
Profiteroles are a classic – an old favorite that’s always easy to fall back on, and simple, as well as economical to make. They’re composed of just the basics, flour, milk, butter, eggs and sugar, yet they’re always satisfying.
As with so many simple recipes, though, attention to detail is necessary to ensure a great result. The choux ( i.e. French for cabbage, due to the shape of the puffs) paste puffs should be baked until they are fairly well browned as the appeal of profiteroles (aka cream puffs) is due to the contrast of the crisp outer shell, which breaks as you bite into it to reveal a creamy filling. BTW, I always poke a little hole in them as soon as they are out of the oven to release the steam so they won’t get soft. And although the puffs can be baked early in the day, I fill them close enough to serving time, so that I don’t have to refrigerate them to preserve the crispy bite of the pastry.
They’re good anytime of year, just sprinkled with powdered sugar, but at Christmastime, I like to dip them in caramelized sugar (a nod to the French classic, Croquembouche, which is made by glueing together profiteroles with caramelized sugar into a coned shape. Since it resembles a Christmas tree, it’s often served in this country at the holidays, although in France, they are traditionally served at weddings). I like to think the little sugar “caps” dresses profiteroles up for the holidays.
Ah, and the filling can be flavored any way you like. For these I have flavored the cream with a yummy and intense maple flavoring sent to me by Boyajian.
Pâte à Choux
- 1 cup water
- 4 ounces unsalted butter*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs
- Mix together the water, butter and salt in a large sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, and the water just comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour all at once, stirring to combine.
- Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste dries. It’ll leave the sides of the pan and come into a ball, and leave a slight skin on the bottom off the pan.
- Dump the paste into the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat with a paddle a few times to cool the paste slightly. Then add the eggs one at a time. Continue beating until all the eggs are absorbed.
- Transfer the paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large number 6 tip. Pipe small balls of the paste onto a parchment lined sheet. When you are finished piping, smooth the little points of the balls flat with dampened finger tips. You may bake them now at in a 375 degree oven, but many recommend letting the paste sit for up to an hour to dry it out a bit. This will result in a crispier pâte à choux.
- Bake the puffs for about 40 minutes, until they are brown. Remove from the oven, and using a towel to pick then up, poke a little hole in the bottom of each puff to release the steam. This helps to keep them crisp.* I often use 1/2 shortening and half butter, as the shortening produces a lighter paste which results in a higher rising puff.
Maple Cream Filling
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 yolks
- 1 ounce butter
- 3/4 teaspoon Boyajian Maple Flavouring – Natural
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 of the milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat it until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat.
- Beat the egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of the heated milk in a steady stream into the egg mixture to temper, whisking continually.
- Return the remaining milk to the heat, then pour in the hot egg mixture in a steady stream, whisking continually.
- Transfer the cream to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle adding the butter, vanilla and maple flavoring.
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Blend the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to completely dissolve the sugar.
- Cover the saucepan with a tight lid and boil the syrup for 2-3 minutes over medium heat in order to allow the steam to rinse any sugar crystals from the sides of the saucepan.
- Uncover the pan and continue boiling the sugar until it begins to thicken and caramelize. Keep a very clean pastry brush and a bowl of cool water by the side of the pan to gently wash down any sugar crystals that may form on the sides of the pan. Be sure to keep your pastry brush and water clean. If any residual sugar crystals remaining on the brush or the side of the pan fall into your sugar they may cause your sugar crystallize and get cloudy rather than remain clear.
- When the sugar is a light to medium caramel brown, remove it immediately from the heat. Working quickly dip the top of each filled puff into the sugar one at a time and place on a parchment lined sheet pan sugar side down, so that the flat cap will form. The sugar should harden enough within a few minutes for you to peel them off the parchment- and voilá – holiday caps!
Yield: @ 16 1 inch puffs