It is with excitement and imaginary falling leaf confetti that I welcome to the 2018 virtual pumpkin party! You all know how much I love pumpkin, so it should not come as a shock that I am absolutely ecstatic to take part in this year’s virtual pumpkin party across the internet and share a fun new pumpkin treat with you. Fluffy, delicious pumpkin cream puffs with chocolate ganache are a thing of fall dreams.
I have to admit, I have been working on this post for a few weeks, and started testing these amazing chewy pumpkin cookies in August (yup, August), but I still don’t have a single pumpkin on my front porch. I snagged a few tiny ones to place around my living room, and my siblings, knowing my love for pumpkins, gave me a cute little pie pumpkin that sits on a table in the entryway of our apartment, but that is it. No other fall decorations, no pumpkins on the porch stairs. This October is a crazy month for me at work and with personal travels, and on top of that, the farmer who tended our favorite local pumpkin patch retired after last year’s pumpkin season, so Will and I are still trying to figure out the best place to pick pumpkins before Halloween and while we are both available. I feel a bit hypocritical declaring my love for pumpkins and all things pumpkin flavored when I have minimal pumpkins around, but I can make it up to you with pumpkin cream puffs!
Cream puffs are such a fun, impressive, and tasty, but uncommon dessert. I’m here to tell you that, while this recipe involves multiple parts, each part is not as difficult as the whole looks. I know we could be making casual pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie, or pumpkin cookies, but these pumpkin cream puffs are for your fall gatherings, your Halloween parties, and your dinner party desserts. They take a bit of planning (the pastry cream has to cool completely, usually overnight), but are so worth it and leave guests feeling pampered. After all, how often do you have a pumpkin cream puff? ;)
The pumpkin pastry cream is soft, rich, and smooth, the choux puffs light and crisp, and the chocolate ganache thick and dark. The bittersweet dark chocolate pairs so well with the sweet pumpkin pastry cream. Each cream puff is only one or two bites, and each one makes you want just one more.
This recipe will make a bit more pastry cream than you might need for your cream puffs. It is so delicious that you might not mind keeping it around, but if you want another use for the leftover pastry cream, spread it in a baked pie crust and top it with homemade whipped cream for a delicious pumpkin cream pie.
Pumpkin Cream Puffs
1 ¼ cups water
¾ cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Pumpkin Pastry Cream
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
¼ cup brown sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cold butter
½ cup heavy cream (to lighten the pastry cream once it has cooled)
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
4 ounces chopped dark chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
To Make Choux Pastry
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Add the flour, sugar, and salt and stir immediately and quickly with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a paste and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Continue to stir for 2-3 more minutes to give the water more time to evaporate.
Move the choux pastry dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition until the mixture is a soft paste that is still stiff enough to hold it’s shape when piped. You may not need all of the eggs – I have made it with 5 eggs before and with 6 eggs before, partially depending on the weather/humidity.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large tip (or just cut a hole in the corner of a plastic ziplock bag). Pipe 1 to 2 –inch balls, about 2 to 3 inches apart from each other on the pans. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15-30 minutes more, depending on the size of your puffs and the speed your oven can reduce it’s temperature (mine is on the hot side). Let the puffs cool only enough so you can hold them. To test for doneness, use a serrated knife to cut one of the puffs in half. If the inside of the puff feels soft, return the puffs to the oven and continue to bake for a few more minutes. Once done, let cool completely before assembling.
To Make Pumpkin Pastry Cream
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the pumpkin puree and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and continue to stir as you heat the mixture until it comes to a slow boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes, still constantly stirring. Remove the puree from the heat.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the milk and heavy cream until warm and almost boiling (it should be barely simmering). Remove the pot from the heat and pour the milk and cream into a medium heatproof cup that is easy to pour.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt on medium-high about 5 minutes, or until thick and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides and add the cornstarch. Turn the mixer to low and mix until combined.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the hot milk mixture. Mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the pumpkin mixture. Mix again on low until completely combined.
Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the pastry cream becomes very thick and begins to boil. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Switch to a whisk and whisk the pastry cream for another 3-4 minutes, or until it thickens, almost like a pudding. Whisk constantly, until the pastry cream is smooth and shiny. This extra time will allow the cornstarch to cook out, preventing you from having grainy pastry cream. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the pastry cream into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the vanilla and butter. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is touching the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Place the pastry cream in the fridge and store there until chilled and ready to use.
When you are ready to use the pastry cream:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the additional ½ cup cream until stiff peaks form. Fold it into the pumpkin pastry cream to lighten.
To Make Chocolate Ganache Glaze
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Cut the cream puffs in half. Use a 1 to 1 ½ tablespoon scoop or a piping bag to place pumpkin pastry cream onto the bottoms of the cream puffs. Dip each cream puff top in the chocolate ganache and place on top of the pumpkin pastry cream. The ganache will set as it cools.
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