A classic and foolproof recipe for Profiteroles served with a vanilla pastry cream and drizzled with a decadent chocolate ganache. Recipe with step-by-step photos.
Profiteroles with Chocolate Ganache
If I had to name one dessert as my “desert island dessert”, it would probably have to be profiteroles. It seems most people are abuzz with French macarons these days (which I also adore) but, to me, the profiterole is what encapsulates a typically French dessert.
What are Profiteroles?
Profiteroles are small choux buns filled with a sweet pastry cream and covered with a decadent chocolate sauce.
In the US, they are commonly referred to as cream puffs.
Growing up in Australia, the profiteroles which I ate from the local French cake shops were typically filled with a vanilla custard and coated in chocolate.
However, when I first ate profiteroles in France (where it is commonly offered on most bistro menus), I was surprised to discover that, first, it was about the size of a small hamburger and, second, that it was filled with vanilla ice-cream.
My husband is French and he insists that profiteroles are only ever served with ice-cream; those which contain a vanilla custard are simply a choux bun.
And this has turned out, even until today, to be quite a contentious topic between us. Are profiteroles meant to be served with vanilla ice-cream or crème pâtissière?
What are Profiteroles Filled with?
It appears that, in France, profiteroles are traditionally only served with vanilla ice-cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce (called a chocolate ganache).
Indeed, this has has also been my experience of restaurants in France and other parts of Europe. Even at a meal at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas, his exquisite profiteroles were served with cold, cold vanilla ice-cream.
For me, this has been a stark change to what I grew up knowing as profiteroles. I actually happen to prefer the custard-filling; I love the soft pastry against the unctuous custard with the bitter contrast of the dark chocolate sauce.
With vanilla ice-cream, the profiteroles are less of a snack and more of a proper, sit-down dessert.
How to Make Profiteroles
The first time I tried my hand at making profiteroles, I was so wowed by my own effort that I quickly forgot the lengthy, yet relatively easy, steps in order to arrive at the finished product.
Making profiteroles requires three components:
- Choux pastry for the profiteroles
- Pastry cream (crème pâtissière or vanilla custard) for the filling
- Chocolate ganache for drizzling over the profiteroles
This is one of those recipes where there are a few components to make, but each one is relatively easy, and they all come together beautifully at the end.
If you decide to make everything on the same day, it might take a few hours as each batch of choux buns will take about 20-30 minutes to bake in the oven. However, you can then make the pastry cream and chocolate ganache during this time.
How to Make Choux Pastry
For detailed instructions on how to make choux pastry (pâte à choux), please see my choux pastry recipe with step-by-step photos.
How to Make Pastry Cream
For detailed instructions on how to make pastry cream (also called crème pâtissière or vanilla custard), please see my crème pâtissière recipe with step-by-step photos.
My profiteroles recipe is largely based on that by Nigella Lawson from her baking bible, How to be a Domestic Goddess. Her recipe for choux pastry has, quite frankly, been the only recipe that has ever worked for me, and so I return to it faithfully time and time again.
To turn the choux pastry into profiteroles, simply place the choux pastry mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
You can make the profiteroles as big or as small as you like, but just remember to adjust the baking time accordingly.
Bake the choux buns until they are puffed and golden, and they should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Once the choux buns have cooled, they are ready to be filled with the pastry cream. I like to find an opening on the side of the choux buns, but if there are no gaps, simply use a small knife or the tip of a chopstick to poke a hole large enough to fit the nozzle of the piping bag.
Making Profiteroles in Advance
You can get ahead with this profiteroles recipe by making all of the components separately and ahead of time.
Read more: Beef Kaldereta Recipe | Family Cuisine
The pastry cream can be ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 1-2 days, and even stored directly in the piping bag.
The chocolate ganache can also be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge. To serve, reheat it gently on the stove over medium heat and give it a good whisk if it looks like it is separating.
Although I prefer to make the choux buns on the day of serving, you can make these up to a day ahead and keep them in a covered container. To crisp them up again, gently reheat them in the oven at 150° (350°F) for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow them to cool before assembling them.
Once the choux buns have been filled with the pastry cream, they will start to soften. So you try to fill them only at the last minute.
How many profiteroles per person? This depends on how big the profiteroles are, but I recommend 3 to 4 profiteroles per person.
How do you serve profiteroles? I recommend filling the profiteroles just before serving, and serve them with a jug of the warm chocolate ganache for everyone to pour over their profiteroles just before eating.
How far in advance can profiteroles be made? You can make all of the components for profiteroles separately and up to 1 to 2 days in advance.
How far in advance can profiteroles be filled? Profiteroles should be filled at the last-minute just before serving so that the choux buns remain crisp for as long as possible. Once they have been filled, they will start to soften.
How do you store profiteroles? The unfilled choux buns can be kept in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days, and you can crisp them up again by re-heating them in a low oven at 150°C (300°F) for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the profiteroles have been filled, they should be kept in the fridge.
What are profiteroles filled with? Profiteroles can be filled with a thickened custard (pastry cream or crème pâtissière), or split in half and filled with a scoop of ice-cream. Vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream are the most popular, but chocolate or caramel flavours are also popular.
Why did my profiteroles deflate or collapse? Opening the oven door too soon can cause choux buns to deflate or collapse. Bake them for the suggested amount of time and only open the oven door once they look lovely and golden in colour.
This recipe was first published on 25 August 2011. It has been updated with new photos and more comprehensive recipe notes.
Read more: how to make peri peri sauce | Family Cuisine