1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) (57 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Egg Wash Glaze:
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (115 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoons (14 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)
Vanilla Ice Cream
Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick sticky paste. Spoon or pipe 12 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart. Beat together the egg and salt for the glaze. With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the tops of the dough.
Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. (The puffs can be frozen. Defrost the puffs and then reheat in a 350 degree F (177 degree C) oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp. Cool before filling with ice cream.)
Chocolate Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Use immediately. (The ganache can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.)
To Assemble: Split the pastry shells in half, fill the bottom halves of the shells with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and replace the top. Drizzle each profiterole liberally with warm chocolate ganache. Serve immediately.
Note: Truffles can be made with leftover Ganache. Truffles are just small balls of chocolate that can be rolled into cocoa powder, powdered sugar or toasted chopped nuts. Make sure the chocolate ganache is well chilled before forming into balls. You can use your hands to form the truffles, or else a melon baller or small spoon. Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or else frozen for a couple of months.
Sweet Profiteroles (pronounced pruh-FIHT-uh-rohl) are small, crisp, hollow rounds of choux pastry that are split in half and filled with sweet whipped cream, ice cream, or pastry cream. The classic version arranges the profiteroles in a pyramid shape with warm chocolate sauce poured over the top. The word 'Profiteroles' is believed to be derived from profit, which means 'small gift' or 'small gain' which seems like a fitting name for this delicious dessert. Now, in North America a 'profiterole' is choux pastry that is filled with a scoop of ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce. Whereas a 'cream puff' is choux pastry filled with whipped cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
No matter if you are making a profiterole or a cream puff, they both start with a baked puffed shell of choux pastry. Choux pastry or pate a choux is an unusual pastry in that it is cooked twice. The first time is when the flour is added to a boiled mixture of butter and water (like a roux) and then this mixture is cooked until it forms a smooth ball of dough. After cooling the dough to lukewarm, eggs are slowly added and the dough is beaten until it becomes a smooth thick sticky paste. This paste can be piped, but I usually just spoon mounds onto a baking sheet, and then the second baking takes place. The choux pastry is baked, first at a high temperature and then at a slightly lower temperature. The high temperature is needed so the dough will rise quickly (leaving a hollow center) and to set the structure of the shells. The temperature is then reduced to allow the outsides of the shells to become firm, while at the same time allowing the insides of the pastry to dry out. If you are not sure whether the pastry is fully cooked, you can cut one of the shells in half at the end of baking to see if they have dried out. If you find the inside dough is still very wet, cook the shells a few minutes longer, as you do not want the choux pastry to deflate upon cooling. But don't worry if the shells have just a small amount of moist dough in them as this can simply be removed before filling the shells.
Once the pastry shells have cooled, they are split them in half and filled with ice cream (homemade or store bought). While the traditional flavor to use in a profiterole is vanilla ice cream, you can use any flavor you like. Coffee ice cream is very nice and during the holiday season I often fill the profiteroles with pumpkin ice cream. So, fill each round of choux pastry with a small scoop of ice cream, enough so that when you place the top half of the choux pastry on the ice cream, you can see the ice cream peeking out the sides. The finishing touch is a drizzling of warm chocolate sauce, and chocolate ganache is my choice. I like Ganache because it is nice and chocolately and it is quick to make. All you do is boil cream, with a little butter, and pour it over chopped chocolate. The final assembly of this dessert should be done just before serving, as you want the chocolate sauce to be warm.