Monday, January 26, 2009

Profiteroles with Blood Orange Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

In the winter my dessert focus switches to citrus, chocolate, or nut based desserts from stone fruits and berries of the summer and apples and pumpkins in the fall. It's so great that certain fruits like citrus and kumquats are in season in the winter. And this dessert that I served following a dinner of Molly Stevens' version of Marcella Hazan's rendition of pork loin braised in milk was quite impressive if I do say so myself.

Profiteroles, like crepes and shortcakes, are something that it's just worth it to take the time to make every now and again so that you can freeze some of them for a quick, but impressive dessert for some future occasion--like say when your partner invites a gym buddy over for an impromptu dinner. The profiterole recipe I use is from three different Food Network sources: Emeril, Ina, and the defunct Cookworks plus Julia Child's and Jacques Pepin's Cooking at Home. They vary in the amount of butter, whether milk or water is used as the liquid of choice, and whether to mix the eggs in by hand, using the stand mixer, or in the food processor. It's always nice to have choices. I chose to use skim milk--which is just watery milk anyway--and the whole stick of butter, since we're talking dessert!

The blood orange ice cream is my adaptation of Joanne Weir's from Weir Cooking: Recipes from the Wine Country. I remember watching this PBS series back in the late 1990s and learning to appreciate how Weir used California ingredients to construct a uniquely Mediterranean culinary style. I like to make her ice cream recipe as a seasonal homage to blood oranges, which have become so ubiquitous in the winter. In the winter, I always buy a few every week to add to salads or to make mimosas. Weir's recipe calls for tangerines, which I suppose are abundant in California, but I can't remember the last time I had one since we now eat clementines more than any other citrus in the wintertime.

I love making ice cream because you can always use some seasonal fruit or just good old chocolate. It's also the kind of thing--Iron Chef notwithstanding where someone is always churning out exotic ice creams in under an hour--that has to be made in advance and is therefore ideal for entertaining. Plus ice cream obviously keeps for weeks in the freezer if one is not overly indulgent! The steps are simple and the results sublime! I don't keep the bowl of my ice cream maker in my freezer so that must be frozen at least 36 hours in advance. The custard must be made and chilled, preferably overnight. When cold, it must be poured into the ice cream maker, and the frozen custard must then be placed in the freezer to harden for a few hours. All in all I take two days or so to pull off making ice cream.

When I got my ice cream maker a few summers ago, I went on a tear making different recipes but have now settled on the relative proportions of liquid (milk, half & half, and/or cream) to eggs (yolks vs. whole eggs) to sugar. I follow these proportions no matter what the recipe calls for unless I'm making sherbet or other ice creams that don't call for eggs: 2 cups half and half, 1 cup milk (whatever kind you drink), 6 to 8 egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar. Part of the reason for using 3 cups of liquid is that I freeze the ice cream in quart containers, and I've learned that starting with just 3 cups of liquid ensures that when the ice cream is made and the volume increases, it will fit into a quart container--with just the right amount of excess to have a taste as soon as it's made! I've tried to make lower fat versions of this ice cream using milk and whole eggs, but the texture is just not creamy enough. Ironically using cream rather than half and half creates a custard that is too fatty when frozen and leaves a fatty residue on the spoon as you're eating the ice cream. Eew!

Profiteroles with Blood Orange Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Pate a Choux for Making Profiteroles

Adapted from multiple sources, makes 18 to 28 depending on size

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Combine
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

in a medium sized saucier or saucepan and bring to a boil to completely melt the butter. Reduce the heat to medium low. Using a wooden spoon, mix in
1 cup all-purpose flour
stirring constantly until a ball off dough forms and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the pot, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a food processor fitted with a steel blade) and let cool slightly. Crack
4 eggs
into a bowl, leaving the yolks intact. With the stand mixer on medium, add the eggs to the dough one at a time, fully incorporating the egg into the batter after each addition.

Transfer the dough to a piping bag. Onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat, pipe dough out in 1 to 2 inch mounds (considering the size of your ice cream scoop), leaving at least 1 inch between each because they will expand as they bake. Wet your fingers and push down the top of each mound to smooth out the tip that may have formed when you moved the pastry bag away from the mound. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pan. Lower the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes more until golden brown. Turn the oven off and let the profiteroles cool (and dry out) in the oven with the door slightly open. When completely cool, store at room temperature in an airtight container or freeze in a ziptop bag until ready to use.

Blood Orange Ice Cream
Adapted from Tangerine Ice Cream recipe from Weir Cooking: Recipes from the Wine Country, makes a generous quart

3 blood oranges
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar

6 to 8 egg yolks, depending on how rich you want it
Juice from one blood orange, about 3 to 4 tablespoons
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Remove the zest from one blood orange and reserve; squeeze the juice from the zested orange and reserve separately. Remove the peel from the other two blood oranges, avoiding the bitter white pith as much as possible. In a saucier (ideal if you have one) or saucepan, combine the orange peel, half and half, milk, salt, and sugar. Scald, stirring to ensure that the sugar is dissolved, and turn off the heat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks to a uniform consistency. Scald the milk mixture again. While whisking the egg yolks with one hand, slowly ladle in a half cup or so of the milk mixture using your other hand. Repeat this one more time, whisking the bowl contents constantly while ladling in the milk mixture. This tempering of the egg yolks warms them slowly so that they don't scramble when added to the milk mixture. Add the tempered egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture and turn on the heat to medium. Stir constantly in a figure 8 motion with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon (170 degrees). Strain the custard into a 1 quart pyrex measuring cup or bowl. Whisk in the orange zest, orange juice, orange liqueur, and vanilla extract. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate overnight or until well chilled. With the ice cream machine running, pour in the custard and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. When ready, transfer to a quart container and freeze for a few hours until hard.

To serve the dessert, cut the profiteroles in half and scoop on the ice cream. Cover with the top half of the profiterole and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Voila!