I properly love eating anything pastry based. I would say it was my weakness but that would be naff, plus, most of the time I feel like I'm really winning. I like profiteroles because they're the ultimate sharing dessert - they just belong in the middle of a table which is always my preferred style. This combo marries crisp profiteroles with fresh cream and a fragrant, strangely addictive star anise caramel. Two great things to try if you're attempting to push the boundaries of your baking repertoire.
110g plain flour
4 teaspoons caster sugar
3 medium eggs
85g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
Star Anise Caramel:
100g caster sugar
2 star anise
200ml double cream
To make the profiteroles:
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees or gas mark 6 (you will need two racks in your oven).
- Weigh out the flour (be exact here) and add a pinch of salt.
- In a saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter, water and sugar until everything has melted down.
- Tip in the flour and beat well until the mixture comes together and the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. Feel the lactic burn!
- Leave the mixture to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Crack the eggs in to a big bowl and beat them well.
- Add a little bit of egg at a time, beating (wooden spoons are good for this) to combine everything in to a smooth dough. Keep adding the eggs until you're left with a smooth, soft dough. It might look like a big sloppy mess but keep beating and it will come together.
- Fill a roasting tin with a cup of water and place on the bottom rack in the oven.
- Pipe or spoon the dough on to a greased baking sheet - the size it up to you but I went for just smaller than a golf ball. Run your hands under the tap and tab a little bit of water on to the top of each one, then place the sheet on the top rack of the oven. They will take about half an hour to puff up.
- Once the profiteroles are cooked, remove from the oven and allow steam to escape by using a skewer or knife to make a small whole in the bottom of each profiterole. You must leave them to cool before filling or you might find the filling melts and runs out everywhere.
- Once cool, put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes to dry them out and crisp up.
Now the caramel:
- Add the sugar and star anise to a shallow frying pan, then melt on a medium heat. Do not stir! If you need to, you can shake the pan to make sure the sugar is melting evenly.
- If you are worried some of the sugar is turning too quickly, just pull the pan away from the heat for a minute and give it a shake.
- Once the sugar is a deep golden brown, add the butter and use a hand whisk to combine quickly. You might need to stand back as it will hiss and splatter in the pan.
- When the butter is melted, take off the heat and add the cream, whisking again.
- Pour the caramel in to a bowl and cover with cling film while it cools.
Pipe in whipped cream (or crème patisserie if you prefer) then pile in to a massive tower on your most special plate. Just before serving, drizzle over a little bit too much of the caramel or put in on the side so people can get their fingers sticky.