We gave the girls the choice then of either going to Tesco or Waitrose and to our surprise they both voted for Waitrose without a moment's hesitation! So off we went and spent some time browsing the aisles, trying to find something both special but not ridiculously expensive. But it seems that Waitrose doesn't cater for people looking for something not expensive and the prices for their meat in particular seemed high and for no particular reason. Having bought some general household shopping items from there, we gave up on getting the special meal from them and decided to try Costco.
Costco is somewhere we usually only shop about once every 6 weeks or so and we have a few select products we buy from there that seem to offer good value. They do pride themselves on the quality of their stock and we are usually very impressed by the quality of their meat so maybe we would find the centrepiece we were after. And, indeed we did, finding a whole fresh Gressingham duck for £5.20 - that's cheaper than a chicken! So with that sorted we thought about what else might go with that to create our special meal and dessert. They do sell profiteroles in Costco but only in packs of 60. A tad too many for the 4 of us!
Back home, my daughter and I decided that we should make the profiteroles. This was something we had first done about 3 years ago when she had decided to write a short French recipe book as a project for French homework. Choux pastry was a mysterious art back then as far as I was concerned and we spent an anxious afternoon following a recipe and wondering if it would turn out OK. My memory told me that it did, although they were a little small and could have done with a bit more cream inside. Buy, hey, 3 years on we were both better cooks.
It was James Martin's recipe that we decided to use on this occasion, although without the orange zest in the cream. He is a well-respected celebrity chef after all, and particularly known for his desserts. And so, with the duck already in the oven, we cracked on with making dessert.
It had occurred to me a few days before when my daughter had decided she wanted to try her hand at making cheese souffle for lunch, that having me as an experienced cook in the kitchen with her made it so much easier to successfully follow a recipe. There are just little tips and moments of preventing mistakes that really make a difference and don't seem to make it to the instructions in a recipe, particularly if the person writing it is very familiar with what they are doing and has forgotten how easy it is to misunderstand something. Sadly, on this occasion, James Martin wasn't there was us and my expertise was somewhat lacking in the choux pastry area!
The first thing that I realised was missing from this recipe was the tip we had learnt on our previous profiterole making occasion, which is to weigh the flour onto a piece of folded paper so that it can slide off it quickly when adding the flour to the butter/water mix. The next point where the recipe is lacking is when it says to "pipe the mixture into small balls in lines across the baking sheet"
OK... but what does "small balls" mean? Something along the lines of about the diameter of a 50p coin might have been more useful. Our ideas of small was clearly way out and when we put them into the oven they puffed up to something the size of a grapefruit! To make matters worst, I'd had a new oven installed 3 days before Christmas and I was still getting used to the way it cooked in comparison to my old one. Clearly these were cooking quite quickly and after 15 minutes they were on the verge of burning even though the recipe said they needed 25-30.
It does say in the recipe that if the profiteroles are too pale they will go soggy when cool. It does not mention that if you cook them too fast they might be golden on the outside but not at all cooked in the middle and that when you open the oven door they will collapse into something as flat as a pancake. This, of course, is what happened to our profiteroles, much to my daughter's distress.
By now the duck was cooked and we abandoned the profiteroles/pancakes to finish making dinner. The duck was beautiful and the dinner excellent. After dinner we had to mentally psych ourselves up again to starting the recipe from scratch. I am proud that my daughter was able to do this as it isn't easy. Having learnt from our previous attempt, we piped the blobs to a smaller size and turned the oven down 10 degrees. This time they rose beautifully and we patiently watched them through the door of my nice new clean oven as they became unquestionably golden brown and after half an hour we removed them from the oven to cool. It was gone 8 o'clock when we were piping cream into them and nearly 9 o'clock when we sat down with our big stack to eat.
Because the dollops the second time were smaller, we didn't use all the choux pastry mixture for the profiteroles so we piped the remaining mixture into lengths and cooked it to make 5 eclairs. It was the next day when I filled them with cream and used some more of the chocolate sauce. If you are going to sprinkle the chocolate sauce as frugally over the profiteroles as shown in James' photo then I would recommend making half the quantity recommended. However, the chocolate sauce makes a lovely cup of hot chocolate if you have any left over - 3 teaspoons stirred into 200ml of warm milk. As for the profiterole/pancake disaster, we reheated them in a frying pan the next morning and served them with lemon and sugar for breakfast!
James Martin's profiteroles are as light as air, topped with chocolate and filled with a delicate orange cream.