In 1540, the wife of King Henri II of France – Catherine de Médicis, sole heir to the entire Medici banking fortune – had an Italian chef working for her by the name of Popelini. It was Popelini who had the idea of filling a pastry puff ball with a filling to make a tasty treat.
The word ‘profiterole’ may have its origins in the French ‘profit,’ which was once used to convey the idea of a ‘little gift,’ or a ‘tip.’ Bread rolls with filled centres sometimes given to chamber maids as a gratuity. These would be filled with treats like sweetbreads, and served in a soup. Once the choux puffball was invented, Marie-Antoine Carême (1784–1833) – inventor of the vol-au-vent and the chef’s hat – started putting cream in them.
At some point in the timeline of the profiterole, some clever bod decided to pour hot chocolate sauce over them.
To make profiteroles you need to start by making a choux pastry. Choux pastry started out life as pâte à chaud (‘heated dough’), before becoming pâte à choux (‘dough for cabbages’), presumably because choux pastry balls resemble little cabbages.
If there is one kitchen trick in preparing profiteroles, it is that at some point in your dough mixing, it will look like everything has gone wrong. Just keep going, and it will come together. Choux pastry cannot be frozen.
- For the pastry:
- 150ml water
- 50g butter
- 75g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- For the filling:
- 300ml whipping cream
- For the sauce:
- 100g plain chocolate
- 75g butter
- 3 tbsp (75g) golden syrup
Put the water and butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts, then bring rapidly to the boil. Remove from the heat and quickly stirring the flour and salt until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean.
Allow to cool slightly, then beat in the eggs a little at a time. Beat well until the paste is smooth and glossy. Spoon teaspoon-sized balls on to a greased baking tray.
Bake in a hot oven for 20–25 minutes until well risen, golden and crisp.
Remove from the oven and split each profiterole. Cool on a wire rack.
Whip the cream, then use to fill the profiteroles. Place on a serving plate. Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup over a gentle heat. Pour over the profiteroles and serve immediately.