This recipe, which I finally wrestled to the floor last week after several failed attempts, is all wound up with my personal history as a devoted lover of food.
Let me explain. Do you remember something utterly delicious that you ate as a child or teenager; something that turned your knees to jelly and filled your eyes with tears? I had two such tasting epiphanies in my early years.
The second was when I tasted Boursin cheese with garlic on a trip to Paris when I was fifteen (but more about that in a future post). The first, also involving cheese, was a few years earlier, when I reached into the fridge and sunk my teeth into a little puffy ball filled with a chilled, creamy mixture that tasted, frankly, of heaven. I believe I might have given out a low whimper: there were choirs of angels, and beams of celestial light fell through the kitchen windows.
Okay, I exaggerate, but the memory of tasting those little beauties remains as clear as day.
I reached back into the fridge, and had another one. And another. And another. Within a few minutes, I'd demolished most of the savoury profiteroles my mother had bought for some special occasion. She was furious with me: 'How could you eat so many?' she asked. 'You might have left one or two for the rest of us!'
'I just couldn't help myself, Ma,' I told her, wiping the crumbs off my bulging cheeks, and that was the honest truth.
My mum hasn't any memory of this event, so she was not able to help when I asked her if she recalled what was in those little puffs. At that tender age, I didn't have a library of tastes to draw upon, so in recreating the recipe I've had to take a guess, using my more experienced adult palate.
And, do you know what? I believe that what I was tasting was either blue cheese, or camembert, or very likely both.
In my most recent attempts, I've tried a combination of creamy blue cheese and camembert, and I've also tried using Brie. The mixture tasted right, but the the filling was a little oily and stiff. So I've abandoned the camembert, and come up with a silken mixture of blue cheese, cream cheese and whipped cream that is as close as I think I'll ever get.
I presume that whoever created these intended them to be served at room temperature, with a crispy outer shell and a soft and fluffy filling. But, for me, these are perfect eaten cold, somewhat soggy on the outside, and straight from the fridge. With bulging cheeks.
As choux pastry is quite tricky to get right, I've given detailed instructions below. Please measure the ingredients exactly (and see Cook's Notes, below).
For best results, a good-quality creamy blue cheese and a thick, full-fat cream cheese are essential. I used Lancewood's lovely plain cream cheese, and a Simonsberg creamy blue.
Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese Filling
For the profiteroles:
1 cup (250 ml) cake flour
a large pinch of salt
125 g salted butter (this is a quarter of a 500-gram block of butter)
1 cup (250 ml) water
4 extra-large free range eggs
For the filling:
130 g creamy blue cheese
1 cup (250 ml) whipping [single] cream
one tub (240 g) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
freshly milled black pepper
First make the profiteroles.
Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool for five minutes, or until just warm to the touch. Now beat in the whole eggs, one at a time, beating hard after each addition. Once you've added the fourth egg, you should have a glossy and thick - though slightly slack - mixture. Pile the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a big plain nozzle, and pipe blobs the size of a litchi onto the baking paper (or use a teaspoon to make neat little dollops).
In the meantime make the filling. Crumble the blue cheese into a saucepan, and add half (125 ml) of the cream. Place over a gentle flame and heat through, stirring often as the cheese melts. Do not allow to boil. When all the cheese has melted, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl, add the warm blue cheese mixture and, using a metal spoon, stir furiously until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Whip the remaining half-cup (125 ml) of cream to a soft peak, then stir it lightly into the blue cheese mixture. If the mixture seems a little stiff, don't worry: persist with gentle stirring, and it will all come together Season with a few grindings of black pepper. Cover and set aside, at room temperature.
Wash and dry your piping bag and fit a medium nozzle to it. Fill the piping bag with the blue cheese mixture. Poke the nozzle into the underside of each profiterole and squeeze in just enough of the cheese mixture to fill the cavity.
Serve immediately with a dab of wine jelly. Or - please trust me on this - put them in the fridge for a couple of hours, or until the filling is firm.
Makes 12 large profiteroles, or 18 small ones
- Choux pastry, although easy to make, is a little temperamental, and you can really only learn from experience when the batter is of a perfect consistency. Much depends on the flour you're using and the size of your eggs. Measure all the ingredients exactly, and follow the instructions above to the letter.
- If your first batch of choux pastry doesn't turn out well, don't be discouraged. Try again! Perfect choux buns are light and crispy, hollow on the inside, and have a soft golden-brown colour.
* With apologies to a friend of my sister's, who came up with the idea of strapping fatty foods directly to your backside.