Profiteroles are not prissy

As someone who loves to bake a lot, the holidays is like open season on ovens and flour and cake pans and all the necessities a good amateur baker would need.

Of course, the holidays also mean special desserts, with lots of embellishment and festive spangling (a.k.a. glitter sugar and food coloring). I usually make a bûche de Noël, but this year I decided to go the route of bite size and, let's face it, I wanted to challenge myself. So this year we had profiteroles.

Profiteroles, according to my giant book of pastry here, are an "ancient, elaborate French specialty [which] consists of small custard-filled cream puffs...glazed with caramelized sugar."

I used a chocolate glaze instead, reminiscent of what you might find on an eclair. The pate a choux recipe came from this book, The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef, as did the pastry cream recipe. The recipes are wonderful in that they have them scaled for "professional batches" as well as for the amateur baker, i.e. you don't have to figure out the calculations yourself. I am not going to post the recipe here because any good pastry cookbook has a decent pate a choux recipe and as for the pastry cream, same.

The chocolate glaze I used was my usual recipe of cream, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and in the spirit of the holiday season - a dash of bourbon. They were delicious.


Beorn's Honey Nut Cake

Tolkien. I remember reading The Hobbit when I was 11 and just getting to that stage of nerdiness, where I'd go to the "classics" section in the library and pull books that I thought would make me more intelligent. Or at least look intelligent when reading them. Little did I know that this random act of ego would lead me into a wonderful world filled with beautiful wordplay, gorgeous scenery and unlikely heroes. 

My family knows that I love Tolkien, so for Christmas my mother got me a little book titled A Tolkien Treasury. In it there are quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien, aficionados of his writing, fragments on literature and even a few recipes.

One of these is the recipe that I tried out today - Beorn's Honey Nut Cake. I remember the meal that the dwarves and Bilbo had at Beorn's table - even trying to come up with some of the recipes myself when I was younger. Nothing tastes quite like whipped butter, honey and fresh white toast. Really, there's nothing like it.

1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese, strained and liquid removed
1 1/2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBSP sour cream
2 extra large egg yolks, beaten
2 extra large egg whites, whipped stiffly
3/4 cup of honey
1 TBSP butter, softened
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375 deg F. Butter a 9x9 square pan. Mix together the cottage cheese, flour, salt, sour cream, egg yolks, honey, butter and 1/2 cup of the wheat germ. Once these ingredients are well incorporated, fold in the egg whites. Gently pour into the prepared pan and top with remaining wheat germ and chopped walnuts. Bake for 25-30 mins or until set. Cool completely before serving.

It's such an odd recipe, but the results are really delicious. And if you substitute low-fat cottage cheese and sour cream in the recipe, this has the makings of a protein rich and low-fat treat. Who knew that "Beorn" was such a good baker?