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A holiday dessert that dresses to impress

Shari Van Fleet

The days of working in a retail bakery are long gone for me, but I do have many fond memories of working many long hours during the holidays. Friends and family used to ask me, “How do you not gain weight working in a bakery?” My will power was strong when it came to sugar cookies, cheesecakes, and Danish pastries. They are delicious, but to me, those calories are just not worth it.

However, when one certain sweet treat calls my name, I have to answer. It has always been my go-to. The one thing that can soothe me like my best friend, and make me smile like an innocent child. Chocolate! I love chocolate, but who doesn’t? I will eat chocolate in any form. Milk, semi-sweet, dark chocolate; all are delicious in their own right.

During the holidays, I love to bake. Any way that I can sneak chocolate into a recipe, I will. I always have a party for New Year’s Eve and my friends have come to expect a delicious spread, as well as a show-stopping dessert. Most people dress to impress, I cook and bake to impress. Nothing in this world makes me happier than to see my friends and family gleefully devour something I made.

So this year, I want to step up my game. I usually make dozens of cookies and cupcakes, but this year my dessert selection will be more special. I am making chocolate profiteroles filled with a strawberry cream, and topped with a chocolate glaze. Not only do I get my chocolate fix, but it looks impressive. It is also a recipe that even the everyday baker can execute.

Profiteroles, or cream puffs, are made with dough called “choux.” In French, “choux” means cabbage. This refers to the resemblance of cream puffs to little cabbages. Also known as éclair paste, choux is extremely easy to make. The dough can be made in just a few minutes, which is important because choux should not be prepared more than one hour ahead of time. The key to a good puff is the lightness and airiness of the product. To create the puff, you leaven the dough with steam. The steam expands the dough and causes large holes to form, which in turn, can then be filled. The proper baking temperature is key. Start at a high temperature (425 degrees) for the first 15 minutes to produce steam, and then drop it to 375 degrees to finish the baking process. When they are baked through, remove them from the oven, and let them cool in a warm place so they do not deflate on you. Once cooled, you can fill them with a myriad of custards, creams, jellies or, of course, chocolate.

Chocolate Profiteroles with Strawberry Cream and Chocolate Glaze

 

For the Chocolate Profiteroles:

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa

For the Strawberry Filling:

8 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ ounces mascarpone

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. For the chocolate profiteroles: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Whisk eggs, egg whites and vanilla together in a bowl. Bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, use a rubber spatula to stir in flour until smooth. Constantly stir the mixture until the dough pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a dough ball.
  2. Transfer mixture to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and whisk until the dough cools down. The temperature should be so you can touch your hand at the bottom of the mixing bowl comfortably. Slowly add the egg mixture one at a time. Sprinkle cocoa over paste, mix until combined.  Transfer paste to disposable piping bag (or Ziploc bag) and pipe eight 2 inch wide x 1 ¼ inch high mounds 2 inches apart. Dip your finger into water and smooth exterior of mounds.
  3. Bake puffs for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350-375 until firm, approximately 20 minutes. (Do not open the oven, it will allow the steam to escape!)
  1. For the strawberry filling: Cook strawberries in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, mashing them with a fork, until thickened and reduced. Approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool in refrigerator for about an hour.
  2. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until it forms soft peaks. Add mascarpone, and whip until stiff. Gently fold in strawberries, and refrigerate again for about an hour.
  1. For the chocolate glaze: Cut puffs in half. Fill bottom half with strawberry cheese mixture, and put the top half back on. Combine sugar and cocoa in bowl. Whisk water and vanilla until smooth. Spoon 1 tablespoon of glaze over each puff and let sit for 15 minutes until set. 

Article and recipe by Shari Van Fleet, of Haddonfield, a pastry arts student at Rowan College at Burlington County’s Culinary Arts Center in Mount Holly. rcbc.edu/culinary. The article ran in the Courier-Post's Taste section on Wednesday, Dec. 6.