Profiteroles are French or Italian cream puffs made using pasta choux dough (pàte à choux in French). They are also referred to as bignès. Catherine di Medici is attributed with their introduction into Italian cuisine. Everyone loves cream puffs but most people think they are hard to make. They are actually very easy providing you know some of the basic rules of cream puff trickery.
Using high gluten flour such as Italian Typo 00, gives better results than all-purpose flour. Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before adding to the pasta choux dough. Allow the dough to cool slightly and beat well to incorporate some air before adding the eggs. The eggs should be at room temperature to get the best results. Allow for a cooling-down period, with the air to circulating around the puffs, before removing from the oven after completely cooled. These basic tips will ensure the lightest and puffiest cream puffs you’ve ever imagined.
You can fill these cream puffs with your favorite pastry cream, sweetened whip cream, ice cream, or my easy filling recipe made with instant vanilla pudding and flavored with the essences of Sicily – vanilla, lemon, and orange.
The Ultimate Profiteroles – Cream Puffs
(Le Ultime Profiteroles)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 12 large profiteroles.
For the Filling:
2 (3.4-ounce) boxes instant vanilla or white chocolate pudding mix
3 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
For the Cream Puffs:
1 cup water or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 cup water
10 tablespoons salted butter, cut in 10 pieces
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups high-gluten or all-purpose flour
4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark chocolate morsels or powdered sugar
MAKE THE FILLING: Whip 1 cup of heavy cream in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream, butter, milk, vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts in a large bowl until thickened and butter is incorporated. Fold whipped cream into pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate until set.
MAKE THE CREAM PUFFS: Place the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Cook just until butter is melted.
Quickly dump the flour into the water at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and continue beating 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow the pasta choux to cool 10 minutes.
Using a hand-held or electric mixer, beat the dough for 8 minutes on medium speed.
Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes.
BAKE THE CREAM PUFFS: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the pasta choux into a large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-tip and pipe 12 mounds of dough, 2-inches apart, onto the baking sheet. Alternatively, you can use two large spoons to shape the mounds of dough. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 15 minutes longer. Cut a small slit in each cream puff to allow steam to escape. Turn the oven off, without removing the cream puffs, and prop the oven door open about 1-inch using a pot holder or rolled kitchen towel. Leave the cream puffs in the oven for an additional 25 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheet and place directly on the oven rack and allow to remain in the oven until completely cooled, about 1 to 2 hours. Cream puffs are best eaten within several hours of baking or frozen (see Do Ahead tip below).
FILL THE CREAM PUFFS: Using a serrated knife, cut the cream puffs in half. Transfer the filling mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip and pipe the filling into the bottom halves of each shell. You can also spoon the filling into each shell. Replace the top halves.
Place the chocolate chips in a small microwave-proof bowl. Heat incrementally for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval until a few small bits remain. Remove and continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Drizzle chocolate over cream puffs or dust with powdered sugar.
DO AHEAD TIP: The completely cooled cream puff shells can be stored in a plastic storage bag and frozen up to 3 weeks ahead of time. Do not freeze filled cream puffs because they will get soggy. The filling can be made the day before.