Meels’ Birthday Cake – Present of Profiteroles

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Last year I discovered Emma Gardner’s baking blog which quickly became a huge favourite of mine (see here and prepare to be inspired…)  Her honesty on what does and doesn’t work is incredibly refreshing against the backdrop of a recipe blogging world that can be a little bit on the smug side, and her recipes are beautiful.  I first came across it looking for ideas for my sister in law’s birthday cake – her birthday is on Christmas day so it was also going to be pudding for Christmas dinner.  My original plan was for a croquembouche, and Emma’s “present of profiteroles” took the tower of choux pastry to more of a fun and modern level and bought in a bit of birthday novelty.  My friend Amelia’s 30th was a great excuse to give it another whirl.  For the Christmas version I used orange infused chocolate as the sauce, for Amelia’s I used caramelised salted white chocolate (recipe here).  The method is definitely a bit more Blue Peter than Great British Bake Off at times, but actually quite fun and the end result is worth it.  Most of the time intensive parts (making the profiteroles and making the ribbon) can be done in advance and frozen if needed, it took me about an hour to crisp up the profiteroles on the day, fill them and assemble in the box (adding the bow took 5 mins before serving).  Method, recipe and construction guidelines below – I followed Emma’s method quite closely, but have added a few tips I used on the chocolate work to make it easier the second time around, and use a slightly different recipe for the choux pastry.  Pics below of both this one and the Christmas version (we only managed to get one slightly blurry snap last night before the focus turned to eating…)  S

Recipe (serves 20):

Profiteroles (100):

Recipe from Helene Dujardin at http://www.tarteletteblog.com (adapted from Baking With Julia

600g flour (sieved and placed on a baking sheet)
330g butter (cut into cubes)
375ml water
375ml whole milk
5 tsp golden caster sugar
1.5 tsp salt
10 eggs & 5 egg whites

600ml cream, whipped
1 vanilla pod
440ml caramelised salted white chocolate (recipe here, requires 400g white chocolate, I used Green & Blacks)
200g milk chocolate (I used Callebaut)

Blue Peter accessories:

Cardboard box (mine was from Paperchase, size medium 18cm x 18cm)
Baking paper
Plastic sheets
Scissors
4 paperclips
Elastic band
Empty shoebox
Blue tac
Piping bag & nozzles

Profiteroles Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (190°C if fan assisted), place a baking tray at the bottom of the over under where your profiteroles will cook

Step one: Place water (375ml), whole milk (375ml), butter (330g), salt (1.5tsp) and sugar (5 tsp) into a large plan and bring to a rolling boil

Step two: Using the baking sheet as a chute, pour the 600g of sieved flour into the mix above all in one go, stirring vigorously until it comes together (don’t worry if you see lumps, keep stirring and they will go)

Step three: Once combined, stir on a medium heat until the mixture is a smooth ball that comes away from the edges of the pan

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Step four: Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes (you can speed this up by transferring into a separate bowl of whirring on low in a mixer with a paddle attachment)

Step five: Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition until the egg is fully combined.  You can do this in a mixer with a paddle attachment or by hand).  Again the mixer will come apart at points – whip whip whip and it does come back together

Step six: Stop when the mixture is the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise, and holds a “v” shape from the mixer

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Step seven: On a baking tray covered with baking parchment, pipe 1 inch rounds leaving a little room for the balls to expand.  Flatten the tops of the choux pastry mounds using your finger dipped in water (this stops the top from having a small point which tends to burn)

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Step eight: Fill a mug of boiling water.  Open the oven and quickly pour the mug of water into the dish at the bottom of the oven, place the profiteroles on the tray above and quickly close the door.  The steam from the water tray will help the profiteroles to rise (I did batch one without the water tray and the others with it and there was definitely a difference).  Cook for 17 minutes until they start to go golden without opening the door

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Step nine: Turn the temperature down to 160°C and cook for a further 15 minutes

Step ten: Open the door and turn the profiteroles over, pierce the underneath with a skewer.  Wedge the oven door open (I used a wooden juicer for this) and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the insides are cooked fully. The profiterole shells can be used when cooled or frozen unfilled.  I stored mine overnight and they softened a bit, but 15 minutes at 160°C in the oven the next day crisped them back up easily.

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Filling Method:

Step one: Using an electric whisk (or by hand if you are feeling sporty), whisk the cream (600ml) and vanilla (one pod) until just before the stiff peak stage

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Step two: Either pipe into your profiteroles or cut in the middle about 3/4 of the way through and fill with a spoon (I started with the former and ended up on the latter as I was a bit pressed on time)

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Ribbon Method:

 

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Step one: Take your plastic sheet and fold over the box, bending to mark the edges.  Remove the sheet and fold along those edges to make the plastic into a “u” shape

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Step two: Cut the “u” shape into strips around 2 inches wide (or however wide you prefer your ribbon).  Place over the box to check it fits.  These will be the chocolate ribbons going around the box.

Step three: Find an object (i used a shoe box) the same size as your “u” shapes that they can sit in to set.  Place the “u” strips inside the box and secure with blue tac

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Step four: Cut two strips the same width as your “u” shape, and around 3 inches long.  These will be the ends of your bow

Step five: Cut one strip the same width as above and around 2 inches long.  Roll into a cylinder and secure with an elastic band.  This will be the centre of your bow.

Step six: Cut two strips the same width as above and around 6 inches long (depending on how big you want the bow).   Have two paperclips handy for securing the ends together for when you cover with chocolate

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Step seven: Melt milk chocolate (200g) over a pan of boiling water

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* For the next part, remember in the final result you want people to see the shiny part of the chocolate (i.e the piece that is up against the plastic), so this dictates which side you put the chocolate

Step eight: Starting with the ends of the bow (they are easiest) brush the chocolate onto the strips and place in the freezer.  I leant the ends of mine against the side of the freezer to give them a bit of curve.

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Step nine: The bow… take the strips from step six and your paperclips.  Brush the strips with chocolate and then fold the plastic so the chocolate spread is on the inside of the loop you have made.  Secure with two paperclips per loop and place in the freezer

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Step ten: The centre of the bow… Take your little cylinder of plastic from step five and spoon some milk chocolate inside.  I spread it around using my finger to get all of it covered.  You can alternatively brush onto the strip and roll it after, but that can be a bit trickier.  Place in the freezer
Step eleven: The box ribbon… Taking the shoe box with the “u” shapes sitting inside it, brush the u shapes with chocolate  and quickly put in the freezer.  Once it has set I just ran a knife along the edges of the plastic to unstick any overspill so the neat “u” can be quickly removed.

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Assembly:

100 profiteroles (filled)
440ml melted caramelised white chocolate (reheated in the microwave or over boiling water)
Any spare melted milk chocolate can also be used here

Step one: Take your box and place one strip of baking paper cut to the inside width vertically and another horizontally.  These make the finished box a lot easier to remove

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Step two: Dip each profiterole in the sauce and start to place in the box, using the sauce to stick the profiteroles together (note the bottom layer will be the top of your box once turned out).  If you like you can do different sauces for the inside and outside, I would stick to something lighter in colour than milk chocolate for the outside so you get a contrast with the bow.

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Step three: Place in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes

Step four: A few hours before serving, remove and place the box upside down on a plate to come to room temperature.  I keep the box on top to hold the shape, but you probably don’t need to.

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Step five: Before serving, remove the box and peel away the baking paper.  Remove your chocolate work from the freezer and carefully peel away the plastic sheets and put into place.

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