Wendy Torrance is a Francophile foodie. After numerous trips to France with her family — husband Andrew and children Honor, 15; Darwin, 13; and Ellesmere, 10 — Torrance delights in creating delicious dishes to feed her family.
Torrance is a director in entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The culinary creativity Torrance exhibits continues to be a source of her joie de vivre.
Q: What began your love affair with France?
A: I was drawn to the culture growing up as I was taking ballet lessons because all the positions are in the French language. In high school, I was part of a group that traveled to Paris and was drawn to the seemingly effortless elegance of the French.
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Andrew located this charming little school in Sancerre that teaches French lessons, which our family has attended for the past two summers. Even though I studied French through college, it is wonderful to learn and spend time in this idyllic ancient town in central France that is known for its wine.
Q: Is your cooking always the crème de la crème?
A: In my view, food should both nourish and delight. I love to cook, bake and entertain. Making food that delights my family and friends is a way for me to express my appreciation and love for them.
It makes me really happy when someone relishes something I make: my father-in-law loves the Christmas meal I prepare that features prime rib, horseradish Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes with buttermilk and chives; a friend just told me she loves my chocolate chip cookies; and my kids regularly request dishes for special dinners or birthday parties.
Dinnertime is very important to our family, and my children will tell you that I am always trying to make a recipe healthier by cutting the butter, sugar or substituting an ingredient that is more nutrient-dense for one that is refined. But there is no substituting anything when making a French pastry.
Q: Does this choux pastry, or pâte à choux, intimidate or inspire you?
A: Pâte à choux is the light pastry dough that is used to make profiteroles but can be used in other ways to make soup dumplings, éclairs and savory small appetizer bites. I love the warm, comforting dumplings of a choux pastry in my chicken soup.
The pastry contains simple ingredients — butter, water, milk, salt, flour and eggs — but instead of a rising agent, the high moisture content creates steam during baking to puff the pastry.
After they’re baked, the puffs should sound slightly hollow when tapped, and they make for an easy dessert that can be prepared ahead of time, before starting dinner. Apart from the muscle you have to put in to mixing the dough, profiteroles are easy to make but look like you spent an entire day preparing them.
Q: Is that why you decided to share this recipe?
A: Chocolate is my weakness, and while in France, a patissier will make profiteroles in the same way — filled with ice cream — but the tops are usually drowning in chocolate sauce. I bought these great blue clay yogurt containers in France — La Fermière sells an amazing vanilla yogurt in them. I immediately thought that they’d make a pretty and authentic way to present the profiteroles with extra chocolate sauce.
The choux pastry comes together quickly, and if you make the shells ahead of time, and extra chocolate sauce is ready to go, profiteroles can be put together in no time for a delicious finish to a meal. This recipe borrows inspiration from “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook and a family recipe.
I love making these, too, because this is not only one of my favorite desserts in France, it is also Andrew’s. When I make these, I can be reminded of my travels, and for a moment I won’t be in my busy kitchen in the midst of a hectic life, but I can be transported to a simple but beautiful table in France.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
For chocolate sauce:
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons milk
3 cups vanilla bean ice cream, divided usage
To prepare pastry:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan on stovetop over medium heat, stir water, milk, butter and salt constantly using a wooden spoon until liquid begins to boil. Remove from heat and immediately add flour. Stirring vigorously, return pan to low heat. Continue stirring until a soft dough forms that does not stick to sides of pan and becomes a ball.
Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition until well incorporated into dough. After beating last egg into mixture, the dough should have a rich sheen.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, forming 12 mounds with 6 on each of the 2 prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove puffs from oven and allow to cool completely.
To prepare chocolate sauce:
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter by heating in microwave on full power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well after each interval. When chocolate and butter are melted, whisk in corn syrup and milk until well combined and a smooth sauce forms.
Set aside to cool slightly.
To assemble profiteroles:
Cut a baked puff in half crosswise. Place the bottom half on an individual dessert plate and top with 1/4 cup vanilla ice cream. Place cut top of puff on ice cream layer and pour chocolate sauce over all. Continue assembling puffs in the same manner and serve immediately.
Per profiterole: 298 calories (57 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 112 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 205 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.