Centuries before Adrià started producing liquid olives and apple caviar, pastry chefs were already engaging in a different kind of spherification – the magical creation of profiteroles out of pâte à choux. As a special Boxing Day dessert, I made profiteroles using two of my favorite Christmas gifts, a Kenwood Triblade and Pastry by Michel Roux.
To the standard crème pâtissière I added a splash of Cointreau and a big pinch of allspice to make the filling more Christmasy. In my midwestern mind, the flavor instantly evoked a memory of pumpkin pie, an unexpected but delightful association brought on by the unique aroma of the spice combined with a thick, creamy texture.
Profiteroles are simple, but there’s definitely something uncommonly exciting about them. I like the way they mushroom up out of little blobs to become beautiful and delicate puffballs. I like the way they conceal their filling like a naughty secret. And I love the way their fragile crunch gives way to a flood of cool, sweet, intoxicating cream. Of course I will always love and look forward to the British Christmas staples of mince pies, trifle, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. But even after all the old standbys have been sampled, who doesn’t have room left for just one little profiterole?
Tomorrow: we have nothing to sphere but sphere itself.