Eric's head sank into his hands. His ledger lay open before him, the pages swathed in red ink. His bakery was failing, and fast. It was all Gaston's fault, really - the dastard had stolen his family recipes and opened his own bakery right across the street. Now they were having a price war, and it appeared that his ex-apprentice was winning. He snuffed the candle, muttering under his breath as he shuffled off to bed.
The next morning, he awoke to the voice of the town crier. "Oyez Oyez! Be reminded one and all that Lord Smythe and his company shall pass through our fair town upon the morrow! Please be mindful around His Eminence and his entourage, lest we see a repeat of last year's lashing!"
Lord Smythe. He was a typical nobleman of the region; pompous, arrogant and corrupt, and quick to take offence at the smallest mistake. The previous year, some poor lad had accidentally bumped into him on the street. He ordered a public whipping for the boy, justifying himself by fabricating a story about how the boy had accosted him and tried to steal his purse. Everyone saw through the lie, but none dared to oppose Lord Smythe. He frequently held wild parties for his aristocrat friends on the taxpayers' dime, using the blatant lie that he was inspecting the towns under his purview so as to ensure the citizens' satisfaction.
As terrible as Lord Smythe was, he did pay his dues, albeit with coin that wasn't rightfully his. Eric munched on yesterday's bread as he thought on this. The lout did buy up all his cream puffs last year. Gaston knew this, of course, and was probably preparing to undercut Eric at that very moment. Still, he had to try. He swallowed the last hunk of bread, and got up to go to work.
The competition had really hit him hard. He didn't have much left of the required ingredients for choux pastry. He wondered if Gaston was doing any better... Then it hit him. If Gaston was going to make his old cream puffs, he'd just make something else. Something more cost-effective, something smaller, something fancier. The nobility would lap it up, they were absolute suckers for anything that made them feel rich.
He made a small batch of choux pastry, halving the size of his cream puffs. To the practical man's eye, this was an obvious scam. Why, one could get a cream puff double that size at Gaston's, and it would probably be cheaper, too! Needless to say, the practical man wasn't Eric's target market.
Eric worked through the night, perfecting his recipe with what little he had. By morning, he'd cracked it. The new cream puffs were as small as possible, sliced open with the cream showing, and lightly drizzled with chocolate. They were certainly eye-catching, much more fancy than his lumpy old cream puffs. By using less ingredients, he'd managed to make a huge stockpile of the stuff. Now he just needed to get the aristocrats to take interest.
He needed a name that was obnoxious and flashy, preferrably French-sounding just to get back at Gaston. All the better if he could sneak in a hint to how badly he was fleecing the unsuspecting nobility...
... And that's how profiteroles were invented.