Sunday, March 18, 2012

Balthazar's Profiteroles

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    Balthazar is probably the only restaurant in the world where I think of dessert first and everything else last. Serve me anything to get it over with and get to the real purpose of my visit...Profiteroles!  If I were to die tomorrow, this dessert and Julia Child's chocolate mousse would be tough contenders in the last meal sweep stakes and this recipe might just win the grand prize.

    Opened in 1997 in the Soho district of New York City, Balthazar is as close as you will ever find on this side of the pond to a French brasserie.

    Contrary to what you may think, profiteroles are one of the easiest desserts to serve at a dinner party, particularly if you have the puffs already made and frozen..  The hot chocolate sauce is made at the last minute and takes less than two minutes to prepare. How long does it take you to add two scoops of ice cream?

    A word of advice, though.  Before Balthazar came into my life, I used to make the Julia Child recipe for the puffs.  This time, I thought I would try something else.   At one point, I almost thought I might have to throw the whole batter away.  You will find it a bit runny and hard to work with.  I measured the flour exactly but used the White Lily brand thinking it might turn out a lighter puff.  That might have been my problem.  Next time I will definitely try it with regular all purpose flour.    Because of this light mishap I did not brush the puffs with the egg yolk, which did not make any difference in the presentation.  Luckily, and much to my surprise, the puffs rose to their expected height and were light, airy and wonderful.  I was most pleased and expect to make them again very, very soon.

    At Balthazar, profiteroles are served by a food runner who pours a warm chocolate sauce over the ice-cream-filled puffs, adding the finishing touch at the table. One runner began making a terrific show of all this, starting with a reserved drizzle, then gradually hoisting the little metal pitcher high above his head. Still pouring, he miraculously hits the ice cream target with no resulting splash. He began a trend among the food runners, all of whom now amaze and frighten the guests with their wild chocolate pouring.

    Serves 6

    For the puffs
    1/2 cup whole milk
    1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
    5 large eggs
    1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
    I added a pinch of sugar to the batter*

    For the chocolate sauce

    1/2 cup heavy cream
    8 ounces semisweet Valrhona chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1 pint vanilla ice cream


    Make the puffs

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)
    2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and salt with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the sifted flour and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined into a dough. Continue stirring over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

    3. Transfer the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir at low speed for a few minutes to lower the temperature of the dough. Increase the speed to medium and then add the eggs, one at a time. Mix until a smooth, cool dough forms, about 4 minutes.

    4. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a #9 tip, with the dough, or use a soup spoon to form small puffs, about 2 inches in diameter, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the puffs with the beaten egg yolk and transfer to the oven.

    5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool the puffs on a wire rack and then slice them, as if they were hamburger buns, with a serrated knife
    Make the chocolate sauce 

    1. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it foams. Reduce the flame to low and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth and shiny. Keep warm over a pan of simmering water

     To serve

    1. Fill the puffs with a scant scoop of ice cream and serve on small plates or in shallow bowls. Pass a pitcher of warm chocolate sauce at the table.

    Lindaraxa's Note: Although the normal portion at a restaurant is three, at home I only serve two puffs filled with a small scoop of ice cream.  It is more than enough per guest.

    Recipe adapted from The Balthazar cookbook © 2003 Keith McNally, Riad Nasr, Lee Hanson. Photo © 2003 Christopher Hirsh


    1. Thanks for this recipe. I love profiteroles, so I really should serve them at home at my next party.

      Balthazar used to serve a great oeufs en meurette -- poached eggs in a red wine sauce-- for weekend brunch but it has been off the menu for years.

      Also I made your blender bearnaise sauce recipe for Valentine's Day dinner for my boyfriend and his niece with great success. I also appreciate your recommendation of the frozen Ore-ida golden fries. Pas mal du tout! -- Christine

    2. Two instead of three? Well, no sharing!

    3. Classicist
      That's because you can come back for more at no extra charge!


      So glad.


      Go for it!

    4. I don't recall seeing the 'pour' at Balthazar. I must not have been paying attention. I'll know next time.

    5. Balthazar is, indeed, a magical place. And it is also a wonderful place to meet friends or business colleagues for breakfast. They do a marvelous soft boiled egg, which comes with little toast fingers that are perfect for sopping up the delicious runny yolk.

    6. Love cream puffs, although I prefer them with a pastry cream filling. Would that be the Julia Child version? Whenever I serve these, people go crazy, although, as you say, they are easy to make, particularly if you use the microwave to make the pastry cream. When I am in a hurry I substitute french vanilla instant pudding. No one complains, but I notice the difference. Or, as Lindaraxa does,using ice cream is even easier!


    Thank you for visiting Lindaraxa. Your comments are much appreciated.

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