I think my kids are spoilt. They eat out all the time. They don’t even think it’s an event anymore. You see whenever I can’t be bothered to cook or, more to the point, deal with the mess afterwards, I take them out somewhere. Since I’ve been a stay at home Mum we’ve scaled this habit back a fair amount. It was getting expensive.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that when I was a kid, eating out was an event. We all started to get ready at least an hour in advance. We all had a bath, blow dried our hair (not Dad obviously), put on our best clothes and our specially polished shoes and sprayed Aramis (Dad) and Tresor (me) about liberally. I would always wear my black party tights, flecked with rainbow glitter. They were epic tights, from British Home Stores I seem to recall.
I always ordered the same thing. As did Dad, as did Mum. For me it was prawn cocktail followed by chicken in sauce and chips, finished with either profiteroles or tiramisu. Heaven would have been a combination of both puds. This is my attempt at a little piece of 80s heaven.
For the choux pastry:
- 150mls cold water
- 50g cold, unsalted butter
- 65g strong white flour
- 5g castor sugar
- 2 large eggs
- Margarine type spread for greasing. I used Flora Buttery. Needs a water content.
For the coffee cream filling:
- 200mls double cream
- 100g marscapone
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 1.5 tsp instant coffee
- 25g icing sugar
For the chocolate sauce:
- 200g dark chocolate
- 60mls double cream
Get your oven on first to Gas 6/200C. Making choux pastry is surprisingly quick and the oven needs to be hot or you’ll have rubbery pastry. Find two good solid baking trays. They need to be the type that don’t buckle in the oven. If they’re flimsy, they may not stay flat and your poor little choux buns will run the risk of scooting off the edges. And that wouldn’t do at all. At this point, you’d also better check the racks are in the middle of the oven too.
Grease your baking trays with the margarine spread. Even the low fat stuff is fine. In fact it works better as it has more water and creates more steam. You see, you want to create steam to make your buns rise in a fluffy and light fashion. After greasing the trays run them under the cold tap, then let the water trickle off them. There should be little lines of water left running across the grease. You could use a fine misty spray of cold water straight onto the trays instead but I never seem to have such useful implements to hand.
Let’s make the pastry. Weigh out the flour and the caster sugar into a jug. Crack your eggs into a mug and give them a good whisk. Find a medium sized saucepan and put it directly onto your scales (if they allow that) and pour in the water. Then add the butter in small cubes – about 1cm by 1cm. Adding the liquid first means you won’t find yourself fishing butter out of cold water should you add too much, too quickly. And please don’t get bored of cutting the butter and whack a great lump in. The small pieces are important as a large lump would mean it’d take longer to dissolve on the hob, meaning more water from the mixture would have evaporated, meaning doughy pastry. Not good.
Locate your hand held electric mixer and plug it in. You can use a wooden spoon for beating the mixture later, but I am too much of a weakling. Also locate a tea towel or two to protect your work surface for when you need to put your hot saucepan down.
Now we’re all systems go. Put the saucepan, with the water and butter in, onto a high heat. You will notice the little slithers of butter dissolving and then, all of a sudden, you’ll notice it boiling. Take it off the heat now! Don’t leave it a second longer. You need that moisture to stay in the mixture.
Pop the pan onto your tea towel and place the whisks (attached to the hand held mixer) into the liquid filled saucepan. Turn onto a low setting then with your other hand add the jug of flour and sugar. Mix for 60 seconds. It will look a bit like overworked mashed potato at this point. This is fine and right.
Next add the beaten egg in tablespoons, mixing well with the electric mixer between additions. Once you’ve added the lot, the resulting mix will be glossy and smooth and look a little like custard. Don’t carry on beating once all the egg is well mixed.
Now you can pipe the mixture onto your baking sheets but frankly unless you’re baking in a competition I don’t see the point. So take a teaspoon and dollop blobs of mixture onto the baking trays about 1inch apart. I made 25 profiteroles with my mixture but all depends how large or small you like them. If you go for really large ones then give them more space to breathe or they’ll turn into one large tray sized profiterole. I have no issue with this size of pudding but large profiteroles are more prone to chewy under baking. That I do have an issue with. Yuck.
Put your trays in the oven and set your phone/timer for 10 minutes. Check after this long and I’d advise swapping your trays around to allow both trays of profiteroles a chance at even baking. Then turn the heat up to Gas 7/220C and keep a bit of an eye on them. They need to be golden brown all over. Should take another 5 – 10 minutes. Don’t try to take your buns off the baking tray until they’re a good colour or they’ll stick.
When they look a good brown colour remove from the oven and use a ‘turner’ (flat edge thingy we all use to get oven chips off the tray) to push the buns onto a wire rack. Then take a pair of scissors and using the point, stab each bun to allow steam and heat to escape. I do this on the flat underneath side so I can hide it when serving but it doesn’t really matter where you do it. This stabbing part is important as if you don’t do it, you end up with soggy, chewy buns. Turn the oven down to Gas 4/180C. Wait for 10 minutes.
Put all the choux buns back onto the trays and into the oven for a final crisp up. I sometimes leave mine in there for another 15/20 minutes to get them really well baked but do keep an eye on them as they can go from crispy to a literal crisp texture (talking salt and vinegar variety here) in minutes. I personally cannot bear a choux bun with soggy pastry in the middle. If you’re filling your buns and then leaving them to sit about this is especially important as the pastry will start to absorb the cream.
Once crisp and well browned leave to cool. In the meantime make the cream filling. Take 150mls of the double cream (leaving 50mls behind) and whisk to firm peaks in a bowl using the electric hand held mixer. Then make up some coffee flavouring by mixing the instant coffee into the boiling water. (You can use Camp essence but I know it can be hard to get hold of.) Add this to the whipped cream and mix in with a wooden spoon. Then add the marscapone and mix that in. Add the remaining unbeaten double cream to loosen the mixture, then the icing sugar. Stir until combined.
To make the choc sauce it’s easy – just break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl. Then add the double cream and heat over a saucepan of simmering water making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until dissolved and molten, then set aside to cool a little.
To fill the buns you can get out the old piping bag and do it properly but I just don’t see the point of needless piping. Instead I split each choux bun down the side with a sharp knife and place a teaspoon of the coffee cream filling into the middle. Then spoon over the choc sauce and eat immediately. Preferably without an audience so you can hoover up in a piggy fashion.