profiteroles fit for a goddess

I just love getting new cookbooks. It’s always a bit nerve-racking for me when it comes to actually trying the first recipe though. It sets the tone for the rest of the book, and it plays a pretty big role in determining the relationship between the book and I. Will it become a go-to book, my encyclopaedia of baking? Or is it just so spectacular that I’ll turn to it when I need to impress? Or will it inevitably collect dust on my bookshelf until I stumble across it again a year from now? It’s a lot of pressure to put on a book, I know, but they say first impressions are important.

After I received Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess from my wonderful boyfriend last Christmas, I spent a good, long month pondering my first baking experience with it. I considered trying a simple recipe, something I was familiar with – perhaps some cookies, or a nice loaf cake. It didn’t take much time in the UK for me I realise that Nigella is thought of rather highly here, and I wanted to love her too. In the end, my indecision got the best of me — I panicked, and chose the most complicated recipe I could find in the book: profiteroles. What could possibly go wrong?

To my surprise, nothing! Considering my complete inexperience with choux pastry, I was thrilled with how Nigella’s profiteroles turned out. They were slightly crispy and golden brown on the outside with a soft and creamy middle. These little guys didn’t last long in my house! The only thing I might change next time is making the buns slightly smaller because I didn’t realise just how much they would puff up in the oven.

Profiteroles with Burnt Sugar Custard and Toffee Sauce

For the profiterole buns:

  • 200g plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 350ml water
  • 150g unsalted butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 oiled baking trays

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F. Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and the water starts to boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, so that the water does not begin to evaporate.

Mix in the sifted flour with a wooden spoon, continually mixing until the dough comes smoothly together. Still stirring, put the pan back on the heat for about a minute, until the dough starts to come away from the pan sides and it forms a smooth ball.

Put the dough into a food processor and gradually pour in the eggs while blitzing. This can also be done by hand, in a mixing bowl. Continue mixing until you have a smooth, gleaming dough that is soft enough to pipe, but firm enough to hold its shape. For this, you might not need all of the eggs, so be sure to add the eggs gradually.

Pipe little rounds of dough onto your oiled baking trays. Alternatively, you can spoon rounds of the dough instead of piping. Bake until the profiteroles are golden and crisp, about fifteen minutes. Pierce each bun with a pin to release the steam and prevent them from going soggy. Allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

For the custard filling:

  • 250ml milk
  • 250ml double (heavy) cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons water

Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Warm this over low to medium heat, taking care not to burn the mixture.

While the milk mixture is being warmed, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are creamy, then mix in the flour. Stir the heated milk into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk gently over a low heat until the custard thickens. This step took a very long time for me, so be patient! Remove the custard from heat and stir in the vanilla. Burn the sugar by adding the sugar and water to a small pan over high heat. Allow the sugar to boil to a dark brown caramel and then remove from heat. The color changes very quickly from a light golden brown to black, so watch the caramel carefully. Pour the hot liquid caramel into the custard, beating the custard as you pour. Once combined, allow the custard to cool completely.

For the toffee sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 300g golden (light corn) syrup

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and mix. Bring the mixture to a boil and let bubble for 5 minutes. Allow a short time to cool while filling the profiteroles.

Fill a piping bag with the burnt sugar custard. Insert the piping tip into the profiterole bun and fill with the custard, repeating for all the buns. Assemble the buns into a loose tower, drizzling the toffee sauce over top to hold the profiteroles in place. The remaining sauce can be used to dip the profiteroles in when devouring. 

Source: Recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson