Last Saturday we went strawberry picking... in the rain. Now, having done it both ways, I will tell you, it is much more enjoyable to go on a hot July day when the sun beats on the strawberries, causing them to release all their fragrance into the air. Getting a little tan and soaking up some Vitamin D while gathering as many of the juicy fruits as you can into a cardboard basket is pleasant, even therapeutic. On the other hand, getting soaked through with a chilly rain and fearing putting the basket on the ground because the bottom might get soggy, fall out, and cause you to lose all those just-picked strawberries is not quite so pleasant. But I only have Saturdays off, and I wasn't about to let a little rain ruin my plans.
So Jeff and I took a leisurely drive to Kimball Fruit Farm up in Pepperell, Mass., early Saturday morning, thinking we might actually miss the rain. I googled a few different farms but went with Kimball because it has a stand at my local farmers' market in Union Square, and I'm always impressed with the wares. Of course, I could have just gotten some strawberries at the farmers' market that very morning instead of trekking to Pepperell and sloshing around in the strawberry patch, but there's no adventure in that!
We got off to a slow start. We were basically sent out back to the strawberry patch with no sense of direction whatsoever. In Connecticut, where I grew up, we would go strawberry picking, and it was all very organized. People would direct you to the rows that were ripe, ready for picking, and not already picked over. It was incredibly systematic, and I sort of expected that everywhere. To me it makes sense to keep track of what has been picked and what hasn't. But here, we were on our own, so we wandered aimlessly for a bit, checking here and there for that telltale red of a ripe strawberry. We finally settled into picking and surprisingly ended up with about 3 pounds of strawberries.
I picked up a few veggies before we left the farm, and then we decided to make a quick stop at Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro, Mass., to see whether we had chosen the better place to go picking.
We bought a little bag of hot, fresh mini strawberry doughnuts for the car ride home.
Back at home, I had a plan for those just-picked strawberries. A whole pound of them was to be used to make fresh strawberry ice cream. You may remember that I made strawberry ice cream a while ago. Well, I loved that recipe so much that I used the same one again. It's just heavy cream, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. It could qualify for one of those new Haagen Dazs five flavors. And this time, Jeff made the ice cream because I was too busy preparing dinner, which included fresh tomato sauce from tomatoes we picked up at the farm.
I didn't want to just have a dish of strawberry ice cream though. I wanted to make something a bit fancier and something mini and came up with the idea to make profiteroles with strawberry ice cream. The March 2008 issue of Gourmet has always stuck in my head because of the picture of the profiteroles on the cover. So I dug that out for the profiterole recipe and accompanying chocolate sauce. Coincidentally, the ice cream recipe comes from the August 2009 issue of Gourmet. (I miss Gourmet, don't you?)
With the ice cream all made and firmed up, I cooked up some pate a choux (choux pastry, cream puff dough, whatever you want to call out) and piped profiteroles. Then I made the chocolate sauce, which intimidated me slightly because it requires melting sugar first. I've had many trials and tribulations with caramel over the years, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. The melting went smoothly, and the rest of the chocolate sauce was a cinch. (Note: My version below is just a half recipe. I wanted to cut the profiterole recipe in half too, but it doesn't divide as well. You could always make cream puffs with any extras!)
The diminutive profiteroles captured fresh strawberry flavor; light, airy pate a choux; and smooth, rich chocolate sauce all in one bite. They'd make a wonderful summer party dessert!
Mini Chocolate-Covered-Strawberry Profiteroles (adapted from Gourmet, March 2008 and August 2009)
(Print this recipe)
For The Profiteroles
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cut in small chunks
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
3 large eggs
For The Chocolate Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3.5 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut and Ghirardelli)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Strawberry ice cream (homemade or store-bought)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with Silpats (or butter the cookies sheets).
Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in all of the flour. I like to use a wooden spoon for this. Continue stirring until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 30 seconds.
Transfer mixture to bowl of electric mixer, and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
Using electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs into the dough one at a time.
Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe mounds of dough about 3/4 inch in diameter onto a cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Pat down any peaks with your fingertip.
Melt sugar in small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally and swirling pan to make sure it melts evenly. When the sugar reaches a dark amber color, remove the pan from the heat.
Carefully stir in the cream and a pinch of salt. Return to heat, and continue stirring until caramel dissolves.
Remove from heat, and whisk in chocolate and vanilla. Cover, and keep warm.
Make sure your profiteroles are completely cool, and remove your ice cream from the freezer, allowing it to soften enough to scoop it.
Place three or four profiteroles on a dessert plate. Cut them in half horizontally.
And then, using a small scoop, place a scoop of ice cream on each profiterole base. Replace the tops. Drizzle with chocolate, and serve. Repeat for as many servings as you need, or until you run out of profiteroles.
Any leftover chocolate sauce and ice cream pair up very well for ice cream sundaes!
Have you been picking or buying strawberries? What are you making with them? For another idea check out my Mini Strawberry Shortcake Sammies With Sugared Basil Leaves. They're so simple. I actually made them again this weekend for my sister's high school graduation party.
And... Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Since my sister's graduation party happens to be today, I'm lucky to be home in CT spending the day with my dad... and the rest of my family.