Cream puffs were always one of the more intimidating desserts to me. I think it’s a pastry thing – all pastry just looks hard to do. I think it’s fair to say that most of them are, but not these little beauts. They’re really similar to gougeres, but they’re the sweet version as opposed to savory. And, you know, there’s creamy wonderful goodness in the middle of them. Not sure how we could get much better with the incentive than that!
We split the ingredient shot into two because we don’t have much space to do photos. One day I’m going to take a photo to show you what I mean. My kitchen is probably bigger than many, but it’s still little and there’s just not a lot of natural light coming in to it either. So, two ingredients shot for the price of one – bonus for you!
Cream puffs are pretty basic things ingredient-wise. There’s no specialty anything, really, in what looks like a really advanced dessert. Winning!
This is the batter for the puffs, with an egg or two still needing to be mixed in. Once they’re all incorporated, the batter will be much smoother. The eggs may seem difficult to get in there, but just keep whisking it all together and it’ll come together quicker than it seems at first.
The batter will be almost like a really thick, slightly sticky pudding. This recipe made a lot more than we expected it too, as well, which is great. It’ll make either two apiece for about 8 guests or one each for almost twice that. The directions say to drop large spoonfuls onto the baking sheets, and we did so (using a regular cereal spoon), probably about 2-3 tablespoons at a time. If you want to make them bigger, maybe use a serving spoon size to dole out the batter.
They bake up super cute and pretty and part of the fun is their irregular shapes. These baked up about 3 inches across. They did deflate slightly by the time we were ready to fill them, but that’s OK. You’ll see why.
So while the puffs are baking, you can be getting the filling ready and then the caramel sauce. See? Lots of ingredients, though, again, none are anything particularly special. Isn’t it great then that they make wonderful cream puffs?
For the filling, all you need to do is whip up some heavenly fluffy whipped cream and just fold in pureed pumpkin.
Next, make a really yummy caramel sauce to douse this dessert in. Apparently we either didn’t take pictures of that process or I forgot to edit them. Either way, this is a really easy caramel sauce. No biggie at all.
It’s time to assemble your cream puffs! The directions say to scoop out the insides of the puffs, but honestly, they’re so light that there wasn’t much there to scoop. We just carefully cut their tops off (they’re a little delicate, use a sharp knife) and proceeded to fill. Top them with some of that homemade caramel and easily stove-top-toasted pecans and wham – prepare for glory.
These are the perfect little dessert to have after a heavier meal. Sure, there’s butter and even heavy cream involved, but they don’t as a whole taste heavy and they won’t leave you feeling weighted down. Instead they are light-tasting, puffy, if you will, and just the right amount of sweet. Not too much, not too little. With a lot of it you can do ahead as well, these are even a good one for upcoming holiday feasts. Enjoy!
Pumpkin-Filled Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce
Prep Time: 50 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Cool Time: 10 minutes Level: Easy Makes: about 14 3-inch puffs
For the puffs:
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
For the pumpkin mousse:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
For the maple-caramel sauce:
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/3 cup half-and-half or light cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
To make the puffs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from heat; cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack and let cool.
Using a serrated knife, cut each cream puff in half horizontally; remove soft dough from inside. Fill cream puffs with Pumpkin Mousse. Replace tops. Spoon some of the warm Maple-Caramel Sauce onto eight dessert plates; sprinkle with some of the toasted pecans. Place a filled cream puff on top of the sauce on each plate. Drizzle each cream puff with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining pecans. Makes 8 servings.
Make ahead tip: Prepare as directed through the cooling time. Layer cream puffs between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
To make the pumpkin mousse: In a chilled large mixing bowl beat whipping cream, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice with the chilled beaters of an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Fold in canned pumpkin. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours.
To make the maple-caramel sauce: In a small heavy saucepan stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in half-and-half or light cream, water, pure maple syrup, and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly (mixture may appear curdled before it bubbles). Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve warm.
The great thing about this recipe really is the make ahead tip. The longest part of the recipe is making the puffs themselves. It’s not much effort at all to whip up the filling and caramel sauce the day you need to serve them.