by John Kraus
Photography: Paul Strabbing
Turn a classic pastry into a modern favorite with the profiterole tart, which uses the traditional yet versatile pâte à choux. Pâte à choux is used to create many classic desserts, including cream puffs, religieuse (a cake made with cream-filled puffs topped by a filled profiterole; or a pyramid of profiteroles and elongated éclairs that are filled with créme Saint-Honoré), chouquettes (little pâte à choux pastry puffs sprinkled with coarse sugar and baked until golden brown) and éclairs of various flavors. Cream puffs are a culinary craze at the moment, with bakeries specializing only in cream puffs opening in metropolitan areas across the country. They originated in Italy, and are said to have been created by Poelini, chef to Catherine de Medici. They arrived in France in the 16th century and debuted in America at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1924.
Pâte à choux also is used for the celebrated profiterole, or mini cream puff. Derivative of the Old French word “profiter,” which means “to profit,” these pastries can certainly turn a profit in your bakery. While they may be filled with either a sweet or a savory filling, they are typically filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. The most acclaimed form of the profiterole is the croquembouche, which translates to “crisp in mouth.” For this dessert, the profiteroles are coated with caramel, which hardens and becomes crisp, and are stacked in a tall pyramid.
Savory profiteroles make great appetizers. Consider making gougére, a gruyére-flavored choux pastry piped into a ring shape before it is baked and served hot or cold as an hors d’oeuvre or snack.
The profiterole tart is commonly seen in European pastry shops and is topped with a pyramid of pâte à choux. In addition to its various fillings, the tart also may be prepared frozen with ice cream and chocolate sauce on the side.
What can be even more attractive to customers than buying these finished products is the ability to purchase the pâte à choux components separately. This profiterole tart, for example, provides them with an interactive, fun way to construct their own dessert or hors d’oeuvre. But whether it’s to increase interest in a time-honored dessert, or to simply boost sales, pâte à choux is a sure winner either way. All the formulas yield enough for three tarts.
|Pipe a thick layer of pastry cream on the bottom of the almond sablé tart shell. Place a flourless chocolate sponge on top of the pastry cream.||Soak the sponge with syrup flavored with your choice of alcohol.|
Cover the soaked sponge with pastry cream.
Fill pâte à choux with pastry cream using a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Insert the tip into the bottom of each puff. Then, stack them on top of the finished tart.
Dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar, and drizzle chocolate sauce over it.
|Butter, 82% fat||120 g||4.2|
|Confectioners’ sugar||50 g||1.8|
|Sea salt||2 g||0.07|
|Almond TPT||50 g||1.8|
|Vanilla extract||2 g||0.07|
|Egg yolk||55 g||2|
|Cake flour||200 g||7|
|Total appr, wt.||479 g||1||1|
Method: Sand the butter with the cake flour and salt. Add the almond TPT and confectioners’ sugar. Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Sheet the dough to the desired thickness, and cut into three 8-in. tart shells*. Egg wash the shells, and let them rest for 30 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes in a 300°F (148°) convection oven, vent open or a 325°F (168°) deck oven, vent open. Store the finished product in the freezer or in an airtight container with limestone.
* After sheeting the the dough, you also can cut cookies from the dough.
|Whole milk||500 g||1||2|
|Vanilla bean, 1|
|Egg yolks||120 g||4.2|
|Pastry cream powder*||35 g||1.2|
|Total appr, wt.||830 g||1||13|
Method: Boil the milk and butter with half the sugar and the scraped vanilla bean (always use a stainless steel pan since aluminum leaves a gray residue). In another bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the egg yolks. Then, add the pastry cream powder and enough milk to liquefy the mixture. When the milk boils, mix 3/4 of it into the sugar/egg yolk mixture. Transfer this back to the remaining milk.
Mix, and slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to boil for at least a minute to cook out the starch flavor. When the mixture thickens, remove it from heat, and whisk until it is homogenized. This allows a slow and even coagulation of the eggs. Spread the pastry cream onto a sheet pan between plastic wrap. Cool quickly in a freezer for five to 10 minutes. This stops bacteria growth. Transfer the cream to the refrigerator.
* Pastry cream powder is a mix of starches, binding agents and vanilla flavor.
|Flourless chocolate sponge|
|Egg yolks||120 g||4.2|
|Chocolate, 64%||67.5 g|
Cocoa paste 100%
|Aged egg whites||150 g||5.3|
|Total appr, wt.||488.5 g||15|
Method: Whip the egg yolks with half of the sugar to ribbon stage. Melt the chocolate and cocoa paste separately, then mix them in with the yolk mixture. Whip the egg whites and remaining sugar to make a meringue. Fold the meringue into the yolk mixture. Spread the sponge in four 8-in. flexible silicone disks, and bake in a 338°F (170°°C) convection oven, vent open, for eight minutes.
|Pâte à choux (choux paste)|
|Whole milk||125 g||4.5|
|Butter, 82% fat||110 g||4|
|Sea salt||5 g||0.2|
|Pastry flour||140 g||5|
|Whole eggs||197 g||5|
|Granulated almonds||150 g||5.3|
|Total appr, wt.||857 g||1||12.3|
Method: In a saucepan, boil milk, water, butter, sugar and sea salt together. Add the sifted pastry flour and cook until dry, about one minute. Transfer the cooked mixture to a mixing bowl, and with a paddle attachment, add the eggs (at room temperature) in stages. If needed, add more warm milk or eggs until the dough reaches ribbon consistency. The dough will slowly fall when you stop the mixer. Pipe spheres 1-in. in diameter on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and egg wash. (Piped pâte à choux items can be frozen raw or baked.) Sprinkle with the granulated almonds. Bake in a 375°F (190°C) deck oven with the vent closed until the dough puffs. Then, lower the heat to 325°F (162°C) with the vent and door slightly open to minimize the steam and dry the product *. Or, bake in a convection oven for 25 minutes at 325°F (162°C) with the vent open.
* Too much steam will make the product crack or result in a misshapen pastry, which makes them hard to glaze.
|Cream, 35%||37.5 g||1.3|
|Chocolate, 70%||87.5 g||3|
Butter, 82% fat
|Total appr, wt.||257.5 g||9|
Method: Boil the cream and milk. Pour it over the melted chocolate. Stir, and add the butter.
Chef John Kraus, pastry chef and instructor at The French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago, teaches his students the art of pastry that includes advanced bread techniques. In 2005 and 2006, Chef Kraus was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in the United States by a national pastry magazine. For more information on The French Pastry School, visit www.frenchpastryschool.com.