Wednesday 1 December 2010

My heaven on a plate: Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese Filling

Wicked, decadent and sinful hardly begin to describe these dreamy little puffs, which are so packed with calories that you might as well skip eating them and strap them directly to your thighs and bottom*. But hell, Christmas is coming, so why not go ahead and indulge? Besides - if you're in my frame of mind (and body) - there are going to be slim pickings indeed come January.

Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese Filling

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

Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese FillingFirst make the profiteroles.

Preheat the oven to 180ยบ C. Line a baking sheet with a piece of greaseproof paper. Sift the flour and salt into a little bowl, or onto a sheet of paper. Put the butter and the water into a large saucepan and set over a brisk heat. When the mixture begins to boil rapidly, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately tip the sifted flour and salt, all in one go, into the butter/water mixture. Stir energetically with a wooden spoon, and return to the heat. Turn down the heat and cook, stirring vigorously and continuously, for one to two minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball that comes cleanly away from the sides of the pan.

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).

Put the baking sheet into the hot oven and bake for 25-35 minutes (depending on the ferocity of your oven) until well risen, golden brown and crisp. Turn off the oven, open the door, and allow the profiteroles to dry out for 10 minutes. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and turn them onto their sides. Use a piping nozzle (or the handle-end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole into the bottom of each one. Set aside to cool completely.

Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese Filling
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

Cook's Notes

  • 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.

Profiteroles with a Double-Creamy Blue-Cheese Filling
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Nina Timm said...

What a clever idea to fill them with savory cheesy filling. I was thinking about a tutorial on making puffs, but I will rather send them straight here...Perfect Jane!!!

Homemade Heaven said...

So did you eat the whole plate yourself again? I would have, long before the great unwashed even got home!
Love the delicate mixture, I can feel myself getting fat just looking at them!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you Nina and Rose. You are such staunch supporters of my blog. (And no, Rose, I didn't eat the lot, but I was bloody tempted.)

Jamie said...

Yum! Yum! And ooh how I'd love to be standing at the fridge in front of the open door eating these one after another. Heck, you know, eating anything straight from the fridge has no calories so problem solved! Seriously, I love making choux and I think a cheesy savory filling is perfect, especially for the holidays.

Kitchenboy said...

Oh my goodness! This looks delicious!! I have never tried to make choux pastry though...

Adele said...

Hi Juno. These look bloody delicious. It's one of those ideas I want to kick myself for not coming up with myself.