Lately, I've been travelling a fair bit for work. I see that statement in print and it sounds sorta glamorous. Like I've been jetting off to Milan and Paris for business meetings. But nope, that's really not how my life works. In my case, I travel to a small, rural'esque town where there are more cows than people and there is only one cab from the airport. The aforementioned cab has no seatbelts and smells suspiciously like an "herb." Oh, and the driver sings Katy Perry's California Girls... in Spanish. Yup, it's a glamorous life I lead.
These trips have given me ample opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations at the airport. What? A girl's gotta have some way to pass the time. In my defense, I only eavesdrop on interesting conversations. If you're talking about how the switch to solid foods is impacting your baby's diaper contents, you can rest assured I am NOT listening in. In the last couple of weeks, I've learned that pharmaceutical sales reps order lunch for hospital staff when they come to pimp their drugs. Well you should know that the legal research software rep always brings free pens and stacks of post-its when he comes to visit my work so beat that, all you doctors dining on gourmet sushi. I've also learned that a tanning salon tan makes you look thinner. The girl espousing that gem forgot to mention that fake n' bake may also give you cancer, but whatevs if it makes you look skinnier, right? And most importantly, I've learned that "The Situation" makes $60,000 for each episode of the Jersey Shore. Good to know his abs are worth more than my seven years of post-secondary education. Way more.
However, the best conversation involved cream puffs. Don't they always? I gathered that the woman was a wedding planner delivering edicts to her wedding planning minions. What? My powers of eavesdropping are now like a finely tuned Spidey sense. So, the wedding planner is planning a rehearsal dinner and the bride wants to serve cream puffs. Except, the wedding planner calls 'em profiteroles, with the full rolling r's. The cream puffs are to be served individually on perfect china plates, complete with gold rims. There will be two raspberries alongside. Not one or three. Two. There will be a sprig of mint on each plate. I mean, would you want a profiterole without a sprig of mint? It all sounded so pretty and perfect that I decided then and there that I was going be a wedding planner. And if I couldn't be a wedding planner, I'd at least make some profiteroles.
Note to self: Do not make profiteroles when it's three hundred degrees in your apartment. The dough is temperamental and it needs to hold shape to some extent when piped out. When piped, it should look like the profiterole in the front of the picture below. It should NOT look like the blobby mess that is the profiterole in the background. Also note that pressing your face against the oven door and staring at the perfectly puffed pastry blobs in your oven provides much amusement. Finally, note that some deflation when the pastry blobs come out of the oven is normal. You should not put all the deflated puffs in a bowl, top 'em with a couple of giant heaping spoonfuls of pastry cream and eat them while watching episodes of the Jersey Shore. Nope, that would be a bad idea indeed.
Now, let us discuss pastry cream. I have seen variations on pastry cream including chocolate cream, mocha cream, coffee cream, orange cream, and even mint-scented cream. You can flavor your cream as you wish. However, I'm a purist and believe that a plain pastry cream, with the slightest hint of vanilla, is perfection (as evidenced by the fact that I ate the first batch of pastry cream on its own and had to make a second batch to fill the darn puffs). Fill your pastry bag with the pastry cream, turn the puff over and pipe the cream into the bottom of the now hollow puff. You can also slice the puffs in half and slather them with a generous serving of pastry cream, sandwich style.
Now that I have perfected my profiteroles, I would like to offer my wedding planning services to the blogosphere. Rest assured, I charge less than $60,000 and unlike The Situation, I won't subject you to my (nonexistent) abs.
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a large baking sheet.
Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition. You may not need all three eggs.
Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Prick each profiterole once with a skewer, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.
5 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp heavy cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed and add the cornstarch.
With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, butter, and heavy cream.
Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Adapted from Epicurious and Ina Garten.