Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Profiteroles and escaping the city


March flew by. There were the last couple of weeks of an intermediate term, stressful theory and practical exams (and a wish to never ever again make a bavarois), and somewhere in between there was a birthday. These weeks were followed by two days of tension release, which included an egg hunt, a visit to Gordon's Wine Bar and a goodbye dinner at Taqueria. All three of which were much needed and made me feel a lot more 'human' and in sync with London once again.

Still, I couldn't wait to go home. It had been too long. I was very much craving some South Tyrolean air, my family and friends, and a break from the busyness that is London. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the big city life that it can become too much.

And I needed out.


I was looking forward to the familiar, the small, the quiet. Home is where I don't need Google Maps, where I sleep better than anywhere else, where I know where to find the best pizzeria, where I can cook till my heart's content because we're not only a two person household and I can be sure that the food I make will actually disappear - especially if my sister's around (ha! sorry, sis).



I arrived in Verona and spent the afternoon/evening/night (we "missed" our trains...) with a friend who I hadn't seen in almost a year. We wandered around the city, and ended up in a wonderful little osteria where we caught up over one, two, a few spritz. As I glanced around the bar front and listened to the chattering of Italians, while they held their bright orange drink and nibbled on whatever the bar had to offer, I realized just how much I had missed this place.

And how good it was to be back.


The next day, we celebrated the 30th birthday of a friend of mine at a pizzeria. For dessert, two of my friends ordered profiteroles. Now, while this is, they assured me, the 'typical' dessert you have after eating a pizza, the only time I've ever had profiteroles, or any choux pastry for that matter, was at school. And we didn't serve ours chilled from the fridge and covered with a chocolate-mousse like sauce. Rather, we served them at room temperature, filled them with sweetened cream and drizzled some chocolate sauce over them.

And to be fair, I thought we did them better. I felt the sauce and sitting time in the fridge had made the dough go too soft. Of course, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, and had to point that out. And they, obviously, wanted a comparison. So I ended up making a batch together with my friend for a dinner he hosted two days later to prove it.



Luckily, they agreed.




Profiteroles // Choux pastry
When we learnt this pastry at school, one of the teachers told us that we would love making this, especially if we were having problems with mastering shortcrust pastry. Cough. Because this pastry is forgiving and easy. And I have to say that choux pastry is one of my favorite pastries to make.

It is so, so simple.

5 ingredients, which include salt and water.

It's also so versatile. You can fill these 'balls of loveliness' with basically anything you want, making them sweet or savory. Or you can fry them, fill them and toss them in cinnamon-sugar.

Make sure you weigh out your ingredients accurately.

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220ml water
85g butter, diced
105g flour, sifted three times
pinch of salt
3 eggs

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In a saucepan, melt butter in water over low heat. Once the butter has fully melted turn the heat up and let the mixture come to a rolling boil. As soon as it reaches that, remove saucepan from heat and quickly add the flour. Stir quickly and efficiently until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan. (Shouldn't take more than 15 seconds). Spread out on a plate and let it cool. Don't wash the pan. Preheat the oven to 200°C // 400°F. Very lightly oil a large baking sheet. Crack open eggs into a jug and beat lightly with a fork.

Once the panade is no longer hot, return it to the pan and little by little incorporate the eggs using a wooden spoon - it will take about 6 additions. Make sure you beat the mixture well after each addition. You may not need all the egg - you are looking for the mixture to reluctantly drop from the wooden spoon.

Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, dollop teaspoonfuls onto the oiled baking sheet. There should be at least 4cm // 1 1/2 inches of space between each dollop.

Bake the choux in the top 1/3 of the oven for about 25 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 minutes.

When they have puffed up, are golden brown and their sides are set, remove them from the oven and prick a hole on the bottom of each one. Return them to the oven, hole side up, to dry out for another 5 minutes. Then let them cool on a wire rack. In the meantime, prepare the chocolate sauce.

Once they are cool, you can fill them with whatever you like. I chose to sweeten double cream with a generous amount of sifted icing sugar and lightly whip it. Alternatively you can make a creme patissiere, a coffee or chocolate filling. Whatever you choose, fill it into a piping bag, place the nozzle inside the hole you made on the bottom of the choux and pipe until the filling starts coming out of the hole - then you'll know they've been generously filled! ;-)

Place on a plate, drizzle with chocolate sauce and enjoy immediately!

Chocolate sauce
I was looking for a chocolate sauce that didn't involve corn syrup. I found a similar one to this on Baked Bree, but thought it was much too sweet and not chocolately enough. So I added lots more chocolate and I think this one's a winner.

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1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons of cornflour
100g // 1/2 cup of sugar
120ml // 1/2 cup of water
Seeds of half a vanilla pod
30g // 2 tablespoons of butter, diced
60g of dark chocolate (I used 70%), cut into chunks

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Combine cocoa powder, cornflour, sugar, water and vanilla pod in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it boils, remove from heat, add butter and chocolate. Stir gently, until both butter and chocolate has melted.

Enjoy!


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