I was watching an episode of “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” in which they made some fancy French desserts. One of the recipes involved making pate a choux, a kind of all purpose batter that you can use to make cream puffs, eclairs, gougeres, and profiteroles (among other things). It actually didn’t look to hard, so I figured “Why not?”
I first heard of profiteroles in a “Kids in the Hall” skit, but I have since come to love them. To make a pate a choux you only need a few simple ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and water. To start you need to make what is called the panade. Basically you bring some water and butter to a boil, add a pinch of salt, then add some flour (the recipe I found used one cup of water, a half cup of unsalted butter, and a cup of flour). You mix this together over low heat until it becomes a soft pliable golden mass. This is the panade, the first step.
After it cools for a few minutes, you need to add the eggs, one at a time, mixing them in completely before adding the next egg — I added 4 total. When you are done you have the finished pate a choux.
Traditionally you put this into a pastry bag and pipe it out into the shape that you want. I don’t have a pastry bag, and I haven’t had good luck using zip-top bags with the end cut off, as all of the TV chefs recommend. My recipe said that you could just use a tablespoon to dish them out onto a buttered and floured baking sheet, so that’s what I did before brushing some egg wash on to them.
As you can see, as they baked they really spread out and puffed up. They were, in fact, a lot wider than I expected them to be. Still, cutting them open revealed an almost hollow interior, which is what you want to see.
I sprayed some whipped cream into the center and took a bite. Eggy, creamy, and light, it was good, though a little dry. For the next batch I used some of the fruit syrup I had made over the summer to add moisture and acidity. That was just the kick it needed.
Will I make them again? I think I might, but I’d track down another recipe. Practice, as they say, makes perfect.
You can find the recipe that I used here.