As promised, our dessert from Christmas Eve dinner with the adult “kids” was Profiteroles with Peppermint Ice Cream, a sure crowd pleaser, and one that Russ made many times over the course of their childhood years. Never heard of one? They are a filled French choux pastry ball with a typically sweet and moist filling.
This time though it started out a bit disastrous when he realized we were out of bittersweet chocolate. I did the HUGE food shopping the day before but it wasn’t on the “list,” and that morning Russ had just been to the super-crowded grocery store to pick up some overlooked items for our holiday dinner and he refused to go out again. Lynn to the rescue! I quickly Googled a substitute for bittersweet chocolate (knowing we had every other iteration of chocolate known to mankind on hand) and saved our marriage 😉
BTW, two possible replacements are: for 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate substitute 2/3 ounce of unsweetened chocolate + 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar; OR 1 ounce semisweet chocolate + 1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder. We opted for the second combination and the sauce turned out velvety fabulous!
Profiteroles are a classy way of creating an ice cream sundae. Hide the festive peppermint ice cream inside a crisp puff of pastry (the same dough that cream puffs are made from), then drizzle it with full-bodied chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of crushed candies. Voila, holiday on a plate!
Now about that ice cream. Can you believe the supermarket was not carrying peppermint ice cream at Christmas time? Well, that’s where a little food ingenuity comes in handy. Russ knew it might be a possibility we wouldn’t find any (I was confident it wouldn’t be an issue—ha), so he coached me ahead of time to get vanilla and we’d make our own with a bit of peppermint extract and some crushed candy canes. Sounds simple enough, right?
However, there’s a BIG “but” coming—Russ added way too much peppermint extract to the point it was almost bitter tasting. His son Dan did a taste test for us and he concurred, not edible. Then a few hours later both Julia and David arrived and also sampled it and declared the dessert resembled a very strong breath mint—not the flavor profile we were aiming for…
So now Russ had to go back to the store anyway, and this time on Christmas Eve! I happened to notice a posting on Facebook that our local Shady Brook nursery farm stand (with a decent food store and holiday light show) was promoting peppermint ice cream. Why the H they couldn’t have posted that a day or so prior?!?
Did he score? You betcha! Uncle Dave’s Handmade Peppermint Stick ice cream personally scooped for Russ by Uncle Dave himself. In fact, they got into a conversation about profiteroles with Uncle Dave’s favorite being pistachio, but once he heard about Russ’ peppermint concoction, he vowed that would be his next creation. Russ opened the container as soon as he got home and three of us sampled it immediately and declared it a winner! The Christmas Eve tradition was saved…
The directions tell you to make ice cream balls ahead of time, but we omitted that step and just scooped the frozen stuff right out of the container. (However, the instructions still contain making the balls if you so insist.)
- 1 quart peppermint ice cream (or make your own if you need to)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
For chocolate sauce:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 7 ounce fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy (optional)
- Chill a small metal baking pan in freezer. Form 18 ice cream balls with scoop and freeze in chilled pan at least 1 hour (this will make serving faster).
- 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.
- Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 15-18 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 or toothpick, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.
Make chocolate sauce:
- Heat sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
- Remove from heat, then add cream and a pinch of salt (mixture will bubble and steam). Return to heat and cook, stirring, until caramel has dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted, then whisk in vanilla and Cognac (if using, and we did). Keep warm, covered.
- Halve profiteroles horizontally, then fill each with a ball (or scoop) of ice cream. Put three profiteroles on each plate and drizzle generously with warm chocolate sauce.
·Ice cream balls (if making) can be frozen up to 1 day (cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour).
·Profiteroles can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Recrisp on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven 5 minutes. Cool before filling.