Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mon Petit Chou

"Mon petit chou" (pronounced maw puh-tee shoo) is a French term of endearment which literally translates to "my little cabbage." At first you may think, "Gee, thanks..." However, the term chou (or choux, if plural) has a double meaning routed in the pastry world, chou referring to "chou a la creme" or cream puff! Ah, that's way better than being called a cabbage! Anyway, this brings us to "pate a choux" or choux pastry. Choux pastry is loosely regarded as being created in France by Chef Panterelli in 1540, who came with Catherine de Medici of Florence in 1533, upon her marriage to the future King Henry II of France. Over the years, the original recipe evolved, as well as it's name, from "pate a Panterelli" to "pate a Popelini," to "pate a Popelin" (which were cakes made in the Middle Ages and shaped as woman's breasts! Scandaleux!), and finally to "pate a choux." So, what is it? Basically, choux pastry is a twice cooked dough with high moisture that creates steam when baked, thus puffing up to create a crisp outer shell and hollow interior that's perfect for filling!

If you have never made choux pastry, I am about to change your life forever! This magical dough, which contains only four common ingredients (water, butter, flour, and eggs), is shockingly easy to make and takes mere minutes! It is the basis for eclairs, profiteroles (little buns that look like tiny cabbages, hence the name), stacked with caramel for "croquembouche," shaped into a ring and filled with praline cream for "Paris-Brest," the basis for "St. Honore cake," and fried to make beignets and even churros. If that's not enough, because choux pastry doesn't contain sugar, you can easily fill them with savory ingredients as well, like chicken or seafood salad, ham or prociutto and cheese, scrambled eggs and herbs, steak and bearnaise, or even mix in a little cheese before baking and you've got "gougeres!" The combinations are endless, and it all starts with this one simple dough! This recipe for "Profiteroles" will delight any "mon petit chou" and are perfect for Valentines Day! Just don't let them know how easy it was!


Profiteroles (Choux Pastry Buns with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Ganache)

Makes about 50, depending on the size. 
*For larger shells for steak, etc., drop by large spoonfuls and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.

Ingredients:
For the Pate a Choux
1 cup water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup flour (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the flour, but it is optional and not traditional.)
4 eggs

For the Pastry Cream
1 recipe Creme Patissiere (Which can be made days in advance! or if you're lazy, fill with ice cream.)

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze (Can be made days in advance!)
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions:
For the Pate a Choux
In a medium saucepan, boil the water and the butter.


Bring to a simmer and stir in the flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.


The mixture will become a big ball. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Transfer the blob to the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl. Starting with the lowest setting, beat in the eggs, one at a time.


Don't add the next egg until the previous one has been incorporated. Beat until smooth and velvety.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. 

Using a pastry bag or two spoons, pipe or drop approximately 1" balls onto the sheet.


Using your finger dipped into a little milk, pat down the tips from piping, if necessary.


Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until medium-golden brown and dry on the outside. (You need to keep an eye on them, and can check to make sure they are fully cooked by cutting one open.) When done, remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.


(Some people recommend piercing each one with a skewer or toothpick to allow steam to escape.) Once cooled, they can be stored in an airtight container until ready to be filled.

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan heat the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the corn syrup. Pour over the chocolate chips and mix until smooth. The sauce can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated, and gently reheated before using.

Final Assembly (*Assemble only as many as you plan to eat that day. Any remaining ingredients can be stored separately for a second round of indulgence!)
Using a pastry bag with a round tip, poke the tip into the side of each cream puff and pipe in enough pastry cream to fill the hollow center.


If you don't own a pastry bag, you can make a partial horizontal cut with a knife and spoon in some pastry cream. Just remember to hold the cut together when dunking into the glaze.

Holding each cream puff securely with your fingers, dunk and twist the top of each one into the chocolate ganache glaze to coat and set aside until ready to be served.

Voila!


(Mon Petit Chou loves them!)

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