There are a few restaurants in this world that have become iconic for me. Places that manage to provide everything I dream a restaurant could provide. Some of them are in Chicago, and I am grateful for that. Some are further away and I pine for them. A restaurant at the top of my list is Ana Sortun’s Oleana, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The restaurant has been there for a while and received heaps of praise since its opening, but we only ate there for the first time a few years ago. We were in Massachusetts to be married, and so of course that colors all of our experiences with a warm glow. But the meal blew my mind. Plate after plate of food elicited wows and mmmms and sometimes silent awe from us. It doesn’t hurt that we were sitting in the beautiful garden behind the restaurant and that the service is among the the best I have experienced anywhere. The staff is friendly and charming and eager to teach you about the food. Bryan and I both agreed it was the perfect restaurant.
It was an unspoken duh that any future trips to Boston would include dinner at Oleana. Over this past summer we were in Boston, again for a wedding, this time the wedding of a friend who is more like family. It was a weekend packed with things to do and places to be but we carved out time, at the very end of dinner service, to return to that garden we love so much and enjoy another exceptional meal. When restaurants are this good, sometimes particular dishes don’t stand out because everything is so delicious and blurs together. This time we had a plate of profiteroles that was so utterly delicious, I was talking about them for days afterward.
They were described on the menu as something like: Turkish-Style Profiteroles with Brown Butter Creme, Sesame Cashews, Caramel & Halva. Need I say more?
I emailed the restaurant and eventually got in touch with Maura Kilpatrick who is the executive pastry chef at Oleana and also co-owner of Sofra Bakery. Sofra is worthy of its own post, because more than any restaurant anywhere it is the one I would like to live next door to. Maura is truly one of our country’s great pastry chefs, and turned out to be as kind and generous as her desserts. She agreed to share the recipe for the profiteroles.
I’ll be honest, whenever I get recipes from pastry chefs I am a little nervous. Sometimes it takes some work to translate the recipe into something that will work for a home cook. Sometimes the recipe will never be the same when made in a home kitchen. Maura’s recipes were perfect as is. I overuse superlatives, and I know that means things begin to lose meaning. But please believe me when I tell you that this is one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen. To quote myself, a few bites into eating this plate, “Holy fuck, these are good.”
It’s been a while since we tackled a project like this around here. There is a lot involved, but none of it is terribly complicated and it can be spread out over a few days. And these are so good they would easily be worth twice as much work. I actually think they are the perfect dinner party dessert, especially when you are aiming to impress. With the holidays here, I hope some of you will give this a try.
Recipes are all below. I am leaving the cream puffs themselves up to you. I used Dorie’s recipe. You can use whatever you like, they’re all almost identical. It is worth noting that each element of this dessert is worth making on it’s own. Especially the caramel sauce, which is just out of control and would be delicious on vanilla ice cream or simply a giant serving spoon.
This might be a helpful schedule for spreading out the work:
- Day 1: Make the cream puff dough, pipe or scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets and freeze. Once frozen you can store in ziplock bags. This step can be done up to several weeks before you plan on serving.
- Day 2: Make the caramel sauce and the candied cashews. These both could be made a few days in advance.
- Day 3/the day before you plan on serving this: Make the pastry cream. You actually have to make this in advance, it needs to chill overnight in the fridge.
- Day 4/the day you plan to serve this: Bake the frozen cream puffs, assemble dessert.
I am including the notes Maura wrote to me about the recipes below. The only alteration I made was to scale down the cashews, though they are so good that you could give extras as gifts. Both the caramel sauce and cashews still make more than you may need. Trust me, you’ll find a use for them.
A huge THANK YOU to Maura, for sharing these recipes with me/us. She is a genius. I dream of the cookbook she will (hopefully!) write one day. For the record, Maura, I volunteer to test any and all recipes for you! ; )
Profiteroles with Brown Butter Creme, Sesame Cashews, Carmel and Halva by Maura Kilpatrick
Tahini Brown Butter Cream
From Maura: This recipe breaks all the rules…cook it with boiling water and bowl touching water and cook until thick enough to coat spatula. Think of it like baking a cheesecake in a water bath on the stove. It came to us from Chicago actually, based on a Mindy Segal recipe, with the addition of tahini.
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 8 ounces full-fat sour cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2.5 oz browned butter, room temperature
Combine yolks, sugar, sour cream, cream and vanilla in stainless bowl, whisk well to combine.
Place bowl over a bowl of boiling water. Stir with rubber spatula, scraping sides. Cook until very thick and cream coats the spatula, this will take about 15-20 minutes. Strain cream, add brown butter, whisk vigorously to completely incorporate, or use a hand blender, Add tahini and salt.
Chill in ice bath until cold, refrigerate overnight. It will get thick as it chills.
Sesame Caramel Cashews
- 3 1/2 cups whole, roasted cashews
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ounce unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
Heat cashews for 5 minutes, just to warm. It is easier to stir and separate when they are slightly warmed.
Combine sesame seeds and fleur de sel.
Cook sugar and water to a medium color caramel, golden. Stir in warm cashews quickly, coating each with caramel. Stir in butter until evenly distributed. Stir in sesame and salt.
Toss with a spatula or 2 spatulas until all nuts are coated.
Pour out onto parchment lined baking sheets. Once they have started to cool, you can break them apart if any have clumped together.
Sesame Caramel Sauce
From Maura: A very decadent alternative to caramel sauce, so rich and addictive. Be careful not to cook the sugar too dark, the sesame flavor will be lost if the caramel is too dark.
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 1/2 sticks, softened
- 3 ounces plain sesame halvah, crumbled
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until sugar is a clear caramel color. Add soft butter and halvah, stirring to combine. Stir in cream. It may be necessary to whisk to remove lumps of halvah. remove from heat, add salt.
Start by filling the puffs with the pastry cream. You can either pipe it in using a pastry bag fit with a fine tip, or slice each puff in half and spoon some of the pastry cream in. You can do this up to a couple of hours in advance. The dough will soften slightly, but one thing I learned from Maura is that Turkish profiteroles are soft, so you can eat them with a spoon. Pile the puffs into individual bowls, or onto a large serving platter. Top with a generous amount of caramel sauce (if it has spent time in the fridge, warm it slightly to loosen the sauce), the candied cashews, and some crumbled halva. I also gave a light sprinkling of flaky salt. Serve!
This makes a lot. I don’t know how much. It will depend on a lot of factors. The size of your cream puffs, how much filling you use in each one, how much topping, etc. I would guess at least 6 people. Probably more.