Why It Works
- Pre-scooping the ice cream makes assembly quick and easy.
- Dusting the profiteroles with powdered sugar lets them expand evenly in the oven and ensures minimal splitting and cracking.
- Returning the baked profiteroles to a turned-off oven helps keep them crisp.
- A small amount of espresso powder bolsters the rich flavor of the chocolate sauce.
Unlike some sweet choux pastries that can be consumed out of hand as a snack or light dessert, such as chouquettes and cream puffs, profiteroles—crisp choux “sandwiches” encasing creamy vanilla ice cream, topped with a warm chocolate sauce—fall squarely in the after-dinner dessert category.
Since this is a dessert I like to serve to everyone at once, I like to pre-scoop and freeze individual balls of ice cream, which makes assembling the full recipe batch of 18 profiteroles quick and easy. However, if you only need to assemble a couple of servings at a time, or lack the freezer space (as many of us do), feel free to skip this pre-scooping step and instead fill the baked choux with scoops of slightly softened ice cream; just be mindful that once the profiteroles are assembled, they will need to be served right away before the softened ice cream melts.
Following our foolproof choux pastry recipe, I call for water and a small amount of sugar in the dough. The water ensures the choux bake up light and hollow with a crisp, golden exterior, while the sugar adds a hint of sweetness that complements both the filling and the sauce. Dusting the piped choux with powdered sugar before baking enhances browning, reduces the severity of cracks, and provides extra crunch and sweetness.
Once baked and fully cooled, simply use a serrated knife to carefully split each choux in half. Whether you pre-scooped balls of ice cream or are scooping them on the fly, place a single scoop on the bottom “bun” of the sliced choux and sandwich it with the top half. Dish up one, two, or three profiteroles on a plate and finish with a generous drizzle of the rich chocolate sauce, which is just warmed heavy cream whisked with chopped bittersweet chocolate, salt, and espresso powder—it comes together in just a couple of minutes. Be sure to serve profiteroles with extra napkins, since the combination of melting ice cream and chocolate sauce is messy, yet delicious, eating.
- 1 quart homemade or store-bought vanilla ice cream, softened slightly (see note)
- One recipe Choux Pastry (made with water and optional sugar), transferred to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain, round tip
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- For the Chocolate Sauce:
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, about 60%, chopped (1 1/2 cups; 230g)
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 1/4 cups (295ml) heavy cream
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place in freezer until cold, about 10 minutes. Remove prepared baking sheet from freezer. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop, scoop 18 balls of ice cream onto prepared baking sheet and place in freezer until ice cream is firm, about 30 minutes.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe a small amount of choux paste under each corner of parchment paper (the dough acts as a glue and keeps the paper in place as you pipe).
To pipe the choux puffs, hold the filled pastry bag at a 90° angle, apply steady downward pressure, and pipe a 2-inch-wide mound (see note). To stop piping, cease applying pressure and swirl the pastry tip away. Continue to pipe choux mounds about 3 inches apart, for a total of 9 choux mounds. Repeat with second tray. To smooth the surface of any uneven choux mounds, dip a finger into cold water and gently pat down any bumps. Dust choux mounds evenly with powdered sugar.
Bake both trays until choux mounds are puffed, deeply golden brown, and feel hollow when lifted, about 25 minutes. Turn off oven, crack the door open, and let stand for 30 minutes to allow profiteroles to dry and fully set. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
To Make the Chocolate Sauce: In a heatproof medium bowl that will sit comfortably on top of a 1-quart stainless steel saucepan without toppling over, combine chocolate, salt, and espresso powder. In a 1-quart stainless-steel saucepan, heat cream over medium-high heat until it has reached a simmer and started to bubble hard around the edges. Immediately pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth.
Clean saucepan and fill with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat, then carefully set bowl with chocolate sauce on top of the saucepan to keep warm.
To serve, using a serrated knife, slice each choux puff in half to create a top and bottom "bun.” Place a scoop of ice cream on each bottom half. Cover with the top half of each puff. Serve profiteroles immediately with chocolate sauce drizzled on top.
You can swap 1 quart of vanilla ice cream with a different ice cream flavor of your choice.
If you want to make sure that each profiterole is the right size, you can prepare a template ahead of time. Take one sheet of parchment paper and, using a 2-inch round cutter as a guide, trace 9 circles that are 3 inches apart. Flip paper upside down and set it on the baking sheet. Repeat with a second piece of parchment paper.
Make-ahead and Storage
Profiteroles are best consumed on the day they’re made.
The ice cream scoops can be prepared in advance. In an airtight container, arrange frozen scoops in single layers, making sure to place parchment paper between each layer, and store in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
The chocolate sauce can be prepared in advance, allowed to cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To rewarm, transfer sauce to a wide, shallow, microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring after each increment, until sauce is completely smooth. Alternatively, if you don’t have a microwave, fill a 1-quart stainless-steel saucepan with 1 inch of water and place over medium heat. Transfer sauce to a medium heatproof bowl that will sit comfortably on the pot without toppling over or touching the water below. Stir until sauce is smooth and warm.
To store unfilled choux puffs, wrap them tightly in plastic and place in an airtight container; they can be kept frozen for up to 1 month. To refresh frozen choux puffs, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Transfer frozen choux puffs to a rimmed baking sheet and reheat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before filling.