Butter, flour, magic: profiteroles with pandan pastry cream and star anise chocolate

profiteroles1

French patisserie has a touch of magic about it. Bring together butter, flour, baker’s hands, a little patience, a touch of bravery, and beautiful, marvellous things happen. Like croissants, brioche, pastries, and today, profiteroles.

This is my second time making profiteroles. The first time was early last year. There were two really good bakers in our team at the time, boys wonders who competed to out-do each other by bringing gorgeous desserts to team meetings: New York cheesecake, pear and hazelnut tortes, Mexican flans. I was still learning the basics of baking, but decided to challenge the boys by making profiteroles.

(Can you tell we are a bunch of overachievers?)

So one night after dinner, I found myself cooking water, butter and flour together; stirring the mixture until the lumps turned into a shiny, stiff ball. Adding eggs, seeing the ball become wet, blobby, hopeless; stirring on blind faith, seeing it come back together again, shinier and looser than before. Piping, into the oven, anxiously watching, sitting on a stool in front of the oven.

And watching as the choux pastry balls grew bigger and puff up. As if by magic.*

* Choux pastry is “double cooked”, a process that imbues it with some very special properties (Joe Pastry). It is made of a cooked roux, with eggs added. It has a high water content. During baking (the second ‘cooking’), the water turns into steam and forces the pastry shell to expand and puff up, before stabilising and holding its shape.

Some of the first batch deflated once out of the oven (took them out too soon, rookie’s mistake). Others looked a little lopsided. Then, the second batch puffed up, slightly crisp, and held their shape. I still remembering cutting into a choux pastry puff for the first time, and seeing the hollow in the centre. It seemed a miraculous thing.

profiteroles3

This week was the second time, for the Tuesdays with Dorie group. The cooking, mixing and re-mixing felt less scary, less fraught with trepidation. But, watching the choux pastry puff up in the oven was still like magic, and I still sat on a stool watching the oven.

First time, the profiteroles were filled with a cream cheese mixture and fig-cabernet paste. This time, I piped pandan flavoured pastry cream through a hole at the bottom of the profiteroles, drizzled a star anise infused chocolate glaze, and served with pureed roasted strawberries.

Other TWD bakers

To see what other TWD bakers have done, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie links page. The original recipe, for espresso profiteroles, can be found in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Profiterole tips

I particularly liked the explanations and instructions from Joe Pastry and Baking911.

– To make a choux pastry, water, butter and salt (to prevent eventual cracking) are heated on the stovetop to a rolling boil, so the fat is dispersed throughout the liquid.

– Add the flour to the melted butter mixture all at once and beat well with a wooden spoon. When ready, the roux mixture should leave the side of the pan. And once the roux comes together, it should be stirred constantly and continuously flattened against the sides of the pan, drying the paste as much as possible.

– Cool the roux slightly before beating in the egg, or the heat may cook the egg.

– After adding eggs, just keep beating until it comes together. When ready, the dough should be shiny, drooping from the spoon, and fall off in clumps if tapped lightly against the side of the pan. Or, ‘the dough is ready when, as you lift your spoon, it pulls up some of the dough and then detaches and forms a slowly bending peak.’

– The pastry puffs must be baked until the insides are dry. Otherwise the puffs will collapse when they are removed from the oven. A few websites suggest that you cut a small hole in the pastries to let steam out, and then bake for another 5 minutes. I’ve left the pastries in the oven with the heat turned off and oven door slightly open for about 20 minutes.

profiteroles4a

Profiteroles

(adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, note I halved this recipe)

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3/4 stick or 85 grams unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups (approx 210 grams) AP / plain flour
5-6 eggs
Optional: 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, for egg wash

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C.

2. Put the milk, water, butter and sugar into a small sauce pan and bring to a full boil over medium heat.  Stir until the butter is melted. Add the flour all at once, stir energetically and without stopping until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Continue to cook and stir for another 30-45 seconds, while the dough forms a ball around the spoon. (If you are using a stainless steel saucepan) a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan – don’t scrape this.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough into a medium bowl, cool slightly. (Some recipes recommend breaking up the dough a little at this stage.) Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Check the dough after the 5th egg is added. The dough is ready when, as you lift your spoon, it pulls up some of the dough and then detaches and forms a slowly bending peak.  If the dough is too thick, add the 6th egg.

4. Pipe or drop the dough onto a baking sheet while it is warm. If piping, finish each puff with a small twist at the end, so there isn’t a point on top, like writing the letter C. If you get a point, just dab the point with a moistened fingertip. Brush the pastries with the egg wash if you like.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F/175C and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the pastries are golden and feel hollow. (Note I baked for another 10 minutes, and left the puffs in the oven to cool off and further dry out.)

6. Fill with ice cream, or pastry cream (below), or whipped cream, or anything else you like. Drizzle with chocolate sauce (below) or similar. Or, turn them into croquembouche.

Pandan-scented pastry cream

(based on various recipes in hand-scribbled notes)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup castor / granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch (I’ve used rice flour at a pinch, or flour if you don’t mind the taste)
1 teaspoon pandan essence

Method

1. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and corn flour until no lumps remain.

2. Heat up milk in a small saucepan until just under boiling temperature (steaming).

3. Add 1/3 to 1/2 of the milk to the egg mixture, a spoonful at a time, whisk well after each addition. This stabilises the egg yolk. Add the milk and yolk mixture back into the saucepan, add the pandan essence. Cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns into a kind of custard and becomes thick.

4. Chill, with plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Chocolate sauce, infused with star anise

(based on the salted butter chocolate sauce, by David Lebovitz)

Ingredients

1 cup (250ml) milk
2 pieces of star anise
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) butter
1/4 cup (45g) packed sugar (original recipe calls for light brown, I used castor)
8 ounces (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Method

1. Heat the milk with star anise. Leave to cool and let the flavours infuse.

2. Heat the milk with butter and sugar until the milk begins to steam.

3. Remove milk mixture from the stove and add the chocolate. Stir gently but constantly until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth, dark and glossy. Cool and serve.

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41 thoughts on “Butter, flour, magic: profiteroles with pandan pastry cream and star anise chocolate

  1. Daniel Etherington 18 September 2013 at 1:41 am Reply

    Intriguing flavours. I’m not sure I’ve ever (knowingly) had pandan. How was the pandan-star anise-traditional French patisserie flavour experience?

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 2:05 am Reply

      It worked surprisingly well! The pandan and star anise flavours were subtle, so pandan was like a riff on vanilla, and star anise was similar to (Mexican) cinnamon chocolate.

      I was relieved they worked out!

      • Daniel Etherington 18 September 2013 at 2:59 am

        Very interesting. I must admit I can be a bit conservative and/or ignorant with such flavours, my wife’s much more into doing E Asian and SE Asian recipes. Must track down some Pandan – not sure it’d be available in Rome; maybe in Esquilino, where there’s a big Chinese community.

  2. Experienced Tutors 18 September 2013 at 2:15 am Reply

    There you go again getting me excited from the other side of the world. 🙂

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 7:51 am Reply

      Hey, if you came to our fabulous tent feast, Laura and I might just serve a croquembouche for dessert… 🙂

  3. Liz 18 September 2013 at 2:45 am Reply

    yum yum yum, can I have a bowl, please? They are lovely and you are gifted!

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 7:52 am Reply

      Of course, a bowl flying your way! Just watch out for them pureed strawberries, stains! 🙂

  4. steph (whisk/spoon) 18 September 2013 at 3:38 am Reply

    mmmm…so exotic!

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 7:53 am Reply

      I had my fingers crossed they would work out! Luckily they did.

  5. johnnysenough hepburn 18 September 2013 at 11:00 am Reply

    Will have to try and make these at some stage as I’ve always loved choux pastry, regardless of not having a sweet tooth. And I have to admit that they don’t sound nearly as scary to make as they did several months ago before I started to bake on a regular basis 🙂 Yet, I can understand why you would sit and watch! Good tip re leaving them in and keeping the oven door open.

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 8:40 pm Reply

      Choux pastry is fascinating isn’t it, all that stirring and cooking is the opposite of techniques for other pastries.
      I’m sure your choux would be perfect, Mr “I can make jam set with no sugar” 🙂 And you may even wipe those drips of chocolate glaze off the plate before taking a photo (oops)

      • johnnysenough hepburn 19 September 2013 at 12:21 am

        Funny, I don’t see drips of chocolate glaze. Besides, the markings on the plates help to disguise them. Anyway, with chocolate I think drips and drops all over the place are perfectly okay! I’m doing that with my jams. In fact, I’ve never been so messy – and loving it 🙂

      • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:06 am

        Well, now that I have permission to be messy, watch out! 🙂

  6. Jody and Ken 18 September 2013 at 11:41 am Reply

    Wow! You made these AFTER dinner??!! Profiteroles–we almost never see them here except around Christmas time and in a few old school French environments for croquembouche. Pandan? Now you’ve got me going. I like exotic flavors like durian and now you’ve got me wondering. I will gladly trade you some fig, plum and hazelnut tart for some profiteroles with pandan cream. Ken

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 8:45 pm Reply

      I don’t recommend making these after dinner, I was up til 2am! A part of me, the obsessive part, enjoyed the experience. I’ve seen pandan described as a SE Asian version of vanilla, and I like it with creamy flavours like coconut, and cream.

      I would also gladly trade profiteroles for your fig, plum and hazelnut tarts! Sounds like we have a deal.

  7. smarkies 18 September 2013 at 12:42 pm Reply

    Those tips for profiteroles are good – thanks! Fairly sure i did not cook the moisture out of mine since they collapsed on the first try….
    Very interesting flavour combinations – should try myself some pandan cream next time – sounds delicious.

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 8:48 pm Reply

      My first batch collapsed too! It seems to be one of those things that happen to first time profiterole makers. The pandan was good, I’ve had pandan chiffon cakes and rice cakes, so they gave me the inspiration. 🙂

  8. Gather and Graze 18 September 2013 at 1:34 pm Reply

    One of my favourite desserts! Love that you’ve enhanced them with a couple of new, but subtle exotic flavours – it sounds like they worked really well! I’ve only ever had pandan (leaves) wrapped around chicken, as an appetiser in a Thai restaurant… a beautiful flavour to use!

    • saucygander 18 September 2013 at 8:51 pm Reply

      Pandan is great isn’t it? Fresh would have given the cream a lovely green colour too, but I was happy enough with the essence. I am now a fan of choux pastry, so many sweet and savoury variations with choux as a base! Thanks for visiting.

  9. Lauren 18 September 2013 at 2:10 pm Reply

    I think you win the award for the spiciest variation on the recipe. I’ve never even heard of pandan, much less know how to incorporate its flavor into a dessert!

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:02 am Reply

      My local Asian grocery store sells pandan chiffon cakes and rice cakes, so I’m lucky to have tried panan in desserts before. It’s a bright green leaf when fresh, and also makes its way into quite a few savoury dishes too. If you get the chance to play around with it, it’s a really interesting flavour!

  10. rubytheblacklabrador 18 September 2013 at 9:48 pm Reply

    Wow – very fancy. Last made these as a birthday cake – piled high with choc icecream in the middle and hot choc sauce in top. will try for the more exotic scents next time:)

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:04 am Reply

      Wow, profiterole birthday cake! Or should that be croquembouche birthday cake? Either way that sounds glamorous! maybe I’ll try that for one of the upcoming birthdays. 🙂

      • rubytheblacklabrador 20 September 2013 at 4:08 pm

        A pile rather than a croquembouche I think but very tasty and as you said choux pastry is actually not to hard to pull off 🙂

  11. lemongrovecakediaries 18 September 2013 at 10:01 pm Reply

    I haven’t tried pandan now I feel like I am missing out on something great. Awesome version!

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:05 am Reply

      Pandan is such an interesting flavour! Except when there’s too much of a good thing, and the whole cake tastes like soap – the mishaps that don’t make it onto the blog! 🙂

  12. Liz 19 September 2013 at 9:39 am Reply

    Beautifully done! I love that you tweaked the flavors 🙂

  13. Cathleen 19 September 2013 at 11:57 am Reply

    Love your photos. Interesting flavors – glad it worked for you.

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:07 am Reply

      Thanks! Great to have you visit!

  14. Sarvani (baker in disguise) 19 September 2013 at 4:08 pm Reply

    oh this is all so interesting.. especially the pandan cream!! and so beautifully presented

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:08 am Reply

      Thank you, the pandan cream was a bit experimental so I’m really glad it worked!

  15. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 19 September 2013 at 5:16 pm Reply

    These Profiteroles won’t be safe around me! I’ll end up eating all of it! Love the chocolate sauce with star anise!

  16. cathysbruce 19 September 2013 at 10:00 pm Reply

    You puffs look great! We had a boy wonder at our office too. Once during a potluck, he brought in a portable burner and individually plated main courses. He was over-the-top, but the food was awesome.

    • saucygander 20 September 2013 at 12:09 am Reply

      Wow, that’s more over the top than our boy wonders! It does sound awesome, and good planning too. Thanks for visiting!

  17. Kalyan 20 September 2013 at 3:52 pm Reply

    Just mouthwatering…looks delicious!

  18. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 22 September 2013 at 12:51 am Reply

    Mmm with pandan filling and star anise chocolate! I’m so there! It’s amazing what magic butter, flour and sugar can do! 😀

  19. jora 23 September 2013 at 6:27 am Reply

    I’m always trying to get my co-workers to compete to make desserts, but I have been unsuccessful so far. I wish I was on your team! Both of your versions sound excellent. I like the roasted strawberry idea. I’ll have to try it!

    • saucygander 24 September 2013 at 1:30 am Reply

      We all like food in our team so go figure 🙂 Roasted strawberry is so good with so many desserts!

  20. tworedbowls 10 October 2013 at 8:50 am Reply

    These photos are so incredibly gorgeous! Love them, and your baking is so skilled. As is your writing — “a little patience and a touch of bravery,” so well-said! Even though I’ve yet to muster the touch of bravery required to tackle anything like these 🙂 Love your blog, thanks so much for posting!

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