Puff per­fect

Jeremy Lee’s prof­iteroles

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis restau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv Jeremy Lee

Noth­ing lights up the eyes faster than the prospect of a freshly made cho­co­late eclair. Crisp, light and del­i­cate, dipped in the most bit­ter cho­co­late and filled with good cream, cho­co­late eclairs are sim­ply peer­less. That is, un­til you con­sider the other eclairs – iced and filled with pra­line cream, del­i­cate caramel or cof­fee – that grace the vit­rines of any fine French patis­serie. Fort­num & Ma­son even does a most fetch­ing eclair in pink, de­light­fully Nor­man Hart­nell-es­que.

Be­yond the eclair, of course, there are all the other choux pas­try treats to be had. The St Honoré, named for the epony­mous patis­serie on the Paris street where it was cre­ated. The Paris Brest, con­jured to cel­e­brate a fa­mous bi­cy­cle race. The re­ligieuse – or nun’s cake – made from two choux buns, one filled and iced with cof­fee-flavoured cream and ic­ing atop an­other filled and iced with cho­co­late. Each pas­try with its own evoca­tive name, the epit­ome of epi­curean de­li­cious­ness.

When made well. And, aye – there is the caveat. Choux pas­tries are the cin­derella of French pas­tries: their spell lasts only a short while. Where a tart might last a day at least, and a gateau or a cake a fair few days, the del­i­cate crisp of re­ally good choux pas­try lives, alas, but a few hours.

So, the key lies in the tim­ings. Never cook the pas­tries in the morn­ing or, saints pre­serve us, the day be­fore. In­stead, make your pas­try then re­frig­er­ate it in a tub with a clos­e­fit­ting lid un­til right be­fore needed: it keeps re­mark­ably well for a few days.

Now, eclairs are best left to those home cooks who are adept at pip­ing. For any­one else, you’ll need lit­tle more than a tea­spoon to make prof­iteroles.

I have used Mon­sieur Michel Guérard’s recipes for both pas­try and fill­ings since I was a nip­per: crème chan­tilly – cream lightly whipped with sugar; crème chi­bouste – con­fec­tioner’s cus­tard light­ened with cream; ice­cream flavoured with honey or vanilla; and, of course, cho­co­late sauce – made with the finest cho­co­late, ex­trav­a­gant but vi­tal. Need­less to say, on the pud­ding menu at Quo Vadis, we love and use them all ac­cord­ingly.

With this fi­nal in­stal­ment, this col­umn goes off to the great pud­ding basin in the sky. It has been a great gor­geous ad­ven­ture, which I have been hon­oured to be a part of. Thanks so much for hav­ing me.

Cho­co­late prof­iteroles

Makes about 30

For the dough

120ml milk

120ml wa­ter

110g soft­ened un­salted but­ter, cut into small pieces

1 level tsp salt

140g plain white flour, sifted

5 whole eggs

For the fill­ing

1 litre milk

Half a vanilla pod

6 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

20g flour

20g corn­flour 200ml dou­ble cream

Vanilla ice-cream

For the cho­co­late sauce

300g dark cho­co­late 70-75%

280ml dou­ble cream

1 Pre­heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 and line a bak­ing sheet with

Choux is the cin­derella of French pas­tries: its spell lives, alas, but a few hours at best

bak­ing pa­per. To make the dough, put the milk, wa­ter, but­ter and salt in a pan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Add in the flour and stir gen­tly un­til a mass forms, then beat un­til the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. Re­move the pan from the heat on to a trivet. Beat for minute or so un­til the steam sub­sides.

2 Crack the eggs into an­other bowl and whisk to­gether lightly. When the dough in the pan is tepid, add in a lit­tle egg and beat well un­til thor­oughly mixed in. Con­tinue thus un­til all the egg is in­cor­po­rated and the dough is made.

3 Scrape the dough into a tub for which you have a lid, and re­frig­er­ate for at least half an hour.

4 When suf­fi­ciently chilled, spoon lit­tle rounds on to your pre­pared bak­ing tray, a few cen­time­tres apart so they may puff well. Put the tray in the pre­heated oven and bake for 10 min­utes, then lower the tem­per­a­ture to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for a fur­ther 15-20 min­utes. The prof­iteroles should be golden brown all over and as light as air. When cooked, re­move from the oven and set aside to cool.

5 To make the con­fec­tioner’s cus­tard, pour the milk into a pan, then cut the vanilla pod down the mid­dle and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Bring this to a sim­mer over a gen­tle heat.

6 In an­other bowl, with an elec­tric beater, mix the egg yolks and sugar to­gether un­til pale and vo­lu­mi­nous. Re­duce the speed of the beater and add in the flours. Re­move the vanilla pod from the milk, and pour the lat­ter in a gen­tle, steady stream into the egg mix­ture, stir­ring all the while. Pour it all back into the pan and re­turn to the heat, stir­ring un­til the cus­tard thick­ens. Lower the heat and beat for a minute un­til the cus­tard is smooth. Re­move from the heat and tip into a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling­film and pierce lightly all over to al­low steam to es­cape. When cooled, put in the fridge.

7 In an­other bowl, whip the cream, then fold into the cold cus­tard un­til smooth. Re­turn to the fridge while you pre­pare the rest.

8 For the cho­co­late sauce, break the cho­co­late into small pieces. Put the cream in a pan and heat un­til sim­mer­ing then tip in the cho­co­late and whisk un­til smooth. Then set it aside, keep­ing it warm so it doesn’t har­den.

9 To as­sem­ble, split each prof­ite­role and fill each with a spoon­ful of cus­tard and a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Put the lids atop the prof­iteroles. Heap them in a bowl or on a large serv­ing plate, spoon all over with the warm cho­co­late sauce and serve swiftly.

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