Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oh, what magic!

Hello frozen world, and happy 2014. I mean it, really: happy 2014. I'm giddy at the thought of it. 2013 was my best year ever in life, and I can't believe I'm rolling into 2014 on the same note. Isn't that something! I hope you have some feelings of excitement and wonder at what lies ahead, too.

And if the way we ring the new year is any indication of how the next 12 months will play out, I'm happy to say my 2014 will include:
wonderfully elaborate dinners, and also Dominoes Pizza
wonderfully ridiculous friends
obnoxious dancing
a small napkin fire or two
Adam telling me I'm funny (people, this is the only time this has ever happened, and it was toward the end of the night, and he has since retracted it, but I will not forget it!)

I brought a pastry dessert to the New Year's dinner party, and I'm elated to reveal that New Years Resolution #1 for me is: more pastries, both making and eating.

I have long shied away from making my own pie crusts, tart shells, flakey turnovers, or anything that requires rolling and pressing and poking and prodding heavy slabs of dough. I've just never really done it! Whenever I'm asked to make a dessert for a get together, I mostly stick to one of my (pathetically few) tried and true dessert recipes, deciding to play it safe and not risk a new recipe failure when hungry people are counting on me. (Case in point: just three weeks ago, I tried a new recipe for almond cake to take to a dinner that night. It came out of the oven looking lovely, but slowly sank to a sorry puddle of uncooked batter as it cooled, which happened just an hour before we needed to leave. Luckily my berry cobbler takes not more than 45 minutes, start to finish, and I can make it in my sleep throw it together and bake it while I shower.)

Anyway, in an effort to expand my dessert repertoire, I've resolved to tackle any combination of butter and flour that tickles my fancy this year. Enter these profiteroles: a pastry filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce, served with whipped cream.

Oh my, we are off to a good start. These were perfect.

Not only are they perfect, sophisticated and delightful: they are also so fun to make. You basically heat some butter and water, then dump in some flour, and stir stir stir - then add a few eggs and stir some more. Then you have a heavy, sticky dough that you will pipe (with a pastry bag if you are fancy, or with a Ziploc bag with its corner snipped if you are me) into weird little blobs on a cookie sheet. At this point, your significant other may observe your progress and say, I don't really get what you're making. And to be honest, you might be thinking the same thing, because for now you just have heavy little dough blobs lined up on a cookie sheet.

But after 20 minutes in the oven, those heavy little dough balls balloon into beautiful, light pastry puffs.

And somehow, they are perfectly hollow inside - just waiting for you to slice them open and add a spoonful of ice cream. I couldn't believe this actually worked. Oh, what magic! 

We are in for a good year.

Pastry recipe from Anne Burrell; chocolate sauce adapted from Ina Garten

Note: The instructions below tell you to fill the dough puffs with ice cream just before serving. For New Year's, at the last minute, I decided to fill the puffs ahead of time and place the ice cream-filled puffs into the freezer until ready to serve. I was glad I did - it saved me a lot of time fussing around at the party when it was time to serve dessert. I also made the chocolate sauce ahead of time. Right before serving, I simply reheated the chocolate sauce gently over a pot of boiling water, plated the frozen profiteroles and spooned the chocolate sauce over (and added the whipped cream, of course!). This process worked beautifully.

1 cup water
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Pinch of cinnamon
Good quality vanilla ice cream (like Haagen-Dazs)
Chocolate sauce (recipe below)
Prepared real whipped cream, lightly sweetened

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter and pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. After it boils, reduce heat to medium and dump in the 1 cup of flour all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is combined and has formed a ball, about 2 minutes. It should have a sweaty shine to it. Remove from heat and transfer the dough to a mixing bowl; allow to cool for about 5 minutes (it doesn't have to be completely cool, you just want to make sure it isn't hot enough to cook the eggs you're about to add).

When dough has cooled a bit, add eggs one at a time. Stir with great enthusiasm after you add each egg, and don't add the next egg until it is fully combined. You'll know when it's combined - after each egg addition, the dough will slip and slide around the bowl. When you stir enough that it becomes fully combined, the dough will become very sticky and heavy and hard to stir.

After all 4 eggs have been added, add the pinch of cinnamon and stir to combine. Then scoop the dough into a pastry bag or a large Ziploc bag with one of the corners snipped. Pipe in small blobs onto one of the prepared cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Leave at least an inch between each dough ball. When you are done piping, wet your fingers with a bit of water, and smooth the top of each ball where the pastry bag released the dough.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (mine were done at 18 minutes). They should be golden brown, light, and sound hollow when tapped on the counter. Set on a wire rack to cool.

To serve: Slice dough puffs in half horizontally, and fill with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Replace the top half of the dough puff, and pour a spoonful of warm chocolate sauce over. Serve with whipped cream alongside.

Chocolate sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, or other good-quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Place the cream and chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a pot of boiling water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Stir to combine as the chocolate melts. When just combined, remove the bowl from the heat, and stir in the brewed coffee.


  1. this looks incredible. but then again, i can't imagine a recipe that combines the magic of Anne Burrell and Ina Garten would be anything but.

    1. Thanks, Paige! And yes, whenever I'm looking for a recipe that is magical with lots of butter, I start with Ina. :)