I like when food is not always too traditional on Christmas day. It still needs to be indulgent though because it is Christmas after all! The traditional Christmas dessert in France is la bûche de Noël (Christmas log). You would usually get one with chocolate, coffee or chestnut butter cream. Last year, I made mine with lemon and white chocolate. Back at home in France, my mother would sometimes vary it by getting a frozen Christmas log: nougat ice cream and raspberry coulis, oh my!
Three years ago, while I still lived in Australia, I served my guests on Christmas day a plate of delicious profiteroles with a hot dark chocolate sauce. They really loved it. It was rich and indulgent as it should be!
Ingredients (serve 6 to 8)
For the pastry cream
300ml full fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean
75g egg yolks (from approximately 4 eggs, depending on the size of your eggs)
75g caster sugar
30g corn flour
8 passion fruits
30g diced, softened unsalted butter
For the choux pastry (makes 24 choux)
250ml cold water
75g diced unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g sifted plain flour
1 egg yolk (for brushing)
For the white chocolate sauce
100g chopped white chocolate
Optional: edible copper glitter
Making the pastry cream (this can be done ahead of time the day before if needed):
1. Put a small sieve over a bowl. Cut the passion fruits in half and squeeze their juice over the sieve. Put all of the juice through with the back of a spoon until only the seeds remain (discard them).
2. Pour the milk in a large saucepan. Scrape the seeds of half a vanilla bean and add them with the milk, including the half vanilla bean. Put over a medium heat and cook until it is almost boiling. Take off the heat, stir and set aside.
3. Put the egg yolks, corn flour and sugar in a large baking bowl and whisk until the mixture is thick and pale.
Whisk in half of the warm milk and pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan. Put the saucepan over a medium heat and whisk until it boils and thickens.
4. At this stage, transfer the pastry cream into a large bowl. Pour in the juice from the passion fruit, mix well until the mixture is thick again. Put a piece of baking paper or cling film directly on the surface to avoid getting a skin on the pastry cream. Cool down for 5 minutes (or until it reaches 55ºC if you have one of those fancy cooking thermometers).
5. When it has cooled down, add in the softened butter and stir well until it is well mixed together. Put the baking paper back on the surface and cool down completely before refrigerating. Keep in the fridge while making the choux pastry (the pastry cream can be made the day before).
Making the choux pastry (makes 24 medium size choux or plenty of mini ones):
1. Preheat the oven to 210ºC.
Pour the cold water in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the salt and diced butter. Slowly bring to the boil.
2. When the butter has completely melted, take the saucepan off the heat and pour in all the flour in one go. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients vigourously.
Put the saucepan back over a low heat and continue mixing until the dough is dry enough to detach itself from the sides of the pan. Let it cool down for one minute.
3. Add the eggs one by one. Mix the dough thoroughly after each egg before adding the next one. The dough should be firm and supple at the same time.
4. Grease two large baking trays with a little bit of butter. Put the dough into a pastry bag and pipe 12 choux buns on each of the trays, leaving about 2 to 3cm between each choux as they will puff up.
Beat the egg yolk and brush it over the tops.
5. Place the trays on the top and middle shelf. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 180ºC and leave the oven door ajar (I do so by sticking a wooden spoon at the top to keep it open). The choux buns should be puffed and golden.
6. Place the choux buns over a wire rack and let them cool down.
Making the white chocolate sauce:
Put the cream and chopped white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth sauce. Transfer into a serving dish and set aside.
Assembling the profiteroles:
Put the pastry cream into a pastry bag with a small nozzle.
Make a small hole at the base of each choux bun using a sharp knife or a skewer. Pipe in some of the pastry cream into each of the profiteroles.
Serve 3 to 4 profiteroles per person. Heat up the white chocolate sauce lightly and pour it over the profiteroles.
And for a bit of fun, top with a sprinkle of edible copper glitter (and do not touch your face afterwards, it is not Mardi Gras just yet...).