By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
The decadent mountain of pâte à choux filled with whipped cream and covered with a luscious top of dark chocolate is not a French dish . . . it is Florentine!
The history of this dessert dates back to the Renaissance.
The original recipe is the invention of an Italian chef named Pantarelli. Pantarelli was part of the escort of Caterina de' Medici, who arrived at the French royal court around 1530 and become the wife of King Henry II in 1533.
Along with her dowry, the great Florentine woman brought her own chefs from the Medici court, who introduced many specialties from their country.
Pantarelli invented a puff pastry that became the basis for profiteroles.
In Florence, this dessert also called bongo and is very popular. Lucky for you, it is easy to replicate a perfect original profiterole at home. Maybe baking the puff pastry can be a little tricky, but if you follow the recipe, you can have a delicious homemade dessert.
The key to making perfect puff pastries is to add the correct amount of egg and not to use your oven fan when you bake—it dries out the pastry. There’s no baking powder or other rising agent for this recipe. What makes choux pastry puff up is the large volume of water in the batter that evaporates into steam as it bakes, causing the protein in the egg to expand and puff up.
And remember, let the puff pastry cool before filling with whipped cream.
Dough: 1/2 cup (100 g) butter, cut into thin slices (room temperature)
9 oz (250 g) water
3/4 cup (150 g) sifted flour
Pinch of salt
5 medium eggs
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) whipping cream
1/2 cup (100 g) confectioner’s sugar
12 oz (330 g) dark chocolate
150 ml of water
1/4 cup (60 ml) cream
4 Tb (50 g) sugar
Make the sweet whipped cream and let it cool in the fridge.
Heat the oven to 180° C without any fan assistance.
Combine water, eggs, and butter in a bowl, and stir with a wooden spoon until thick.
Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one—otherwise the dough will break.
Grease a sheet pan.
Fit a round-tipped nozzle about 7–8 mm wide into the sac à poche (piping bag). Fill with dough and make little round curls on the pan.
Bake for 20 minutes until risen, dark golden, and firm.
*Do not open the oven during the first 15 minutes.
When ready, remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool. They will come out crispy on the outside, hollow on the inside, ready to be filled with whipped cream.
When these "beignets" are cold, pipe in a generous amount of whipped cream.
Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, let it cool, and then add to the remaining lightly whipped cream.
Drop the profiteroles into the chocolate cream one-by-one or drizzle it on top after arranging the balls in a pyramid on a serving dish.
Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).