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Profiteroles or Cream Puffs – an historic French pastry | And how to make them

Cake consisting of choux buns called profiteroles drizzled with chocolate and filled with cream

Profiteroles, the airy light pastries we all love (called cream puffs in the US) have been around for almost 500 years!

The history of profiteroles

No one really knows the tue origin of profiteroles but it seems they’ve been around for a long time. The French writer Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) mentions profiteroles in his book Gargantua. Originally they were made in Italy but more of a bread like texture. In the 16th century Italian Catherine de Medici married French King Henri II and brought with her Italian chefs to France and they made profiteroles for the court.

It was the great chef Antonin Carême (1784-1833) who really made profiterole’s famous though. He elevated the pastry to a whole new level.

Filling the choux buns with cream and dipping them in warm caramel – the dish was transformed and lauded by all who tried it. He went on to invent the Croquembouche – a tower of profiteroles. It was an immediate hit and became the wedding cake of choice in France, where it’s still popular to this day.

Here’s how to make choux pastry buns for profiteroles

Ingredients for about 18 profiteroles

250ml water (8.5 fluid oz)
80g of unsalted butter .7 stick/3 oz)
25g of sugar (1 oz/1/8 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
150g of plain flour, sifted (1 1/4 cup/5.5 oz)
4 eggs

It’s actually not as hard as you might think to make profiteroles!

In a pan, place the butter, sugar and salt with 250ml of water and bring to a simmer. Add the flour and stir for 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. When the paste comes away from the side of the pan, it’s ready.

Immediately transfer the mix to a food processor (or mixer) and beat in the eggs one at a time until you have a smooth, shiny paste. Cover and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.

Line a baking tray with baking (parchment) paper and spray the paper with water or use a pastry brush to paint water on. This helps the buns to rise and be nice and crispy on the outside.

Spoon the choux pastry into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe 2 inch mounds about 3 inches apart.

Once your buns are piped, round off the top with your finger (after you dip it in water to prevent sticking).

Bake for about 15 minutes, until they’re gorgeously golden in colour.

Pierce each one to let out the steam (a toothpick works well) and allow to cool on a wire rack before filling.

Fill them with crème Anglaise, Chantilly cream or fresh cream. Swirl warm chocolate sauce over them and/or caramel…

More about French cakes

How to make French Financier cakes
Recipe for nonnettes – the traditional cakes of Burgundy
Great cakes of France – the Religieuse, the French Eclair and the Opera cake

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