Babies do not understand the concept of “Whisk constantly for 5 minutes.” So when that critical point in the recipe came, and I was whisking away, Nolan started crying in the swing that now lives in the corner of my kitchen. From across the room, I held up five fingers and shouted, “Hold on just five minutes, Baby! Then Mama will feed you! When my hand looks like this,” I balled my hand into a fist, “I will feed you!” As if he would then be like, “Oh, okay. I understand. Just finish making your pastry cream. I’m cool.”
I knew he was not going to die if he didn’t eat right that very second, but I felt like I might die if I had to listen to five solid minutes of baby screams. Fortunately, the logical side of my brain realized that it was not worth destroying perfectly good pastry cream just for silence, so I started singing show tunes over the wails of my child while I whisked.
Only when the pastry cream was transferred to a bowl, with plastic wrap pressed firmly against its warm, blobby top, did I frantically rip off my sweatshirt and clutch my child to me. “Pastry cream is very important, Baby,” I told him, stroking his head to soothe him. “It’s like Mama’s milk, except way, way better.”
Yes, I have lots of one-sided conversations with my baby.
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any recipes for gingerbread pâte à choux, so I adapted my favorite choux dough recipe (I believe it was originally my Nonna’s, but I don’t have the source listed in my notebook) to include molasses and gingerbread spices: ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and a bit of black pepper. I also turned my usual pastry cream recipe (also from Nonna, I think?) into eggnog pastry cream by just reducing the egg yolks and swapping out the milk with eggnog.
I was pretty nervous about if the choux dough would be an epic failure, because I wasn’t sure about the science of adding a liquid sugar to the dough. (I reduced the amount of water to compensate.) But they actually puffed up in the oven, so I don’t have to hang my head in shame! I recently read something along the lines of: Every idea in food has been tried, and if you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it was awful. (It’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember where I read this.) But anyway, that idea kept popping into my head when I couldn’t find a gingerbead pâte à choux recipe anywhere.
But I don’t think it’s awful. In fact, I think they are decidedly un-awful. And Phillip, who I was positive would hate these cream puffs (he is not a nog fan), liked them because of the gingerbread flavor of the puff. I think that someone, somewhere has done this before me, and they just never got around to putting it on the internet. So I guess I’ll take the initiative. Geeeeeeze.
- 5 tablespoons (40 grams) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup (130 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 cups (500 grams) eggnog
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, sliced
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch of black pepper
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons (65 grams) molasses
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) butter, sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- Confectioners' sugar (optional, for dusting)
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining sugar (80 grams) until smooth, thick, and light in color, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the flour mixture; the yolk mixture will be quite thick. Set aside.
- Place eggnog in a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds out of the vanilla bean and add to the eggnog, along with the empty pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean pod.
- Add a small amount of the warm eggnog to the yolk mixture and whisk to loosen things up. Whisking constantly with one hand, gradually ladle about one cup of the eggnog into the egg yolk mixture until combined. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the eggnog.
- Return pan to heat and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently with a rubber spatula. Once bubbling, switch to the whisk and whisk constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until melted.
- Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until the pastry cream is cool, at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and spices. Set aside near stovetop.
- In a medium saucepan, combine water, molasses, sugar, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and dump in flour mixture all at once. Mix until combined, then return to heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until dough is shiny and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes to cool down the dough. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until fully incorporated after each addition.
- Transfer choux dough to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (a large round tip will work, too.) Pipe dough into mounds (about 1½ inches in diameter) onto the prepared baking sheets.* Bake for 35 minutes at 375°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool puffs completely on the pan on a wire rack.
- When ready to serve, slice off the top third of each shell. Pipe or dollop the pastry cream into each puff, then place the severed tops of the puffs on top of the pastry cream. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
- *If you aren't a fan of piping, you can also just plop the dough into mounds, or use a disher.