It’s Thanksgiving week! In true Amee form, I have one last minute recipe for you that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving table. After this I promise I’ll embrace all things peppermint and gingerbread, but for today: Pecan Pie Cream Puffs!
These Pecan Pie Cream Puffs are classic cream puffs with crisp brown sugar craquelin on top. They’re filled with honey pecan pie filling and bourbon whipped cream! *drools*
Making Brown Sugar Craquelin
First thing’s first: you need to make the craquelin. I had never made this before this recipe, and now I don’t know that I can ever go without! The craquelin is a butter/sugar/flour mixture that gets rolled thin, chilled, cut into rounds, and placed on top of your choux pastry before baking. The resulting cream puffs have a sweet, crispness to their tops, and they look magnificent, too. <3
The craquelin gets rolled out between two layers of parchment paper. I used nonstick parchment, for obvious reasons. I use the same pre-cut parchment sheets to line my baking pans. If you’d like to get some for yourself, you can find them here.
After chilling, you cut rounds out of the craquelin. If necessary, you can gather the scraps and re-roll them to cut more rounds. I used a round, 2″ biscuit cutter, like from this set here.
Once the rounds are cut, you can store them in the freezer until you need them (this is the only part of the recipe that you can complete in advance).
Making and Piping Choux Pastry
You’ll want to read through the recipe directions in their entirety before starting. I’m terrible about doing this myself, but it could save you the heartbreak of deflated cream puffs. These are my tips for making and piping the choux pastry for your cream puffs:
- When beating the choux with a wooden spoon, be sure to beat well, until all ingredients are well incorporated and the dough is shiny. My philosophy is to beat it until I think it’s enough, then do a little more. If you underbeat your cream puffs, they may deflate later.
- When piping the choux mounds, make sure they’re at least 2″ apart on the baking sheet. If they’re too close together, the steam that escapes while baking could cause them to deflate.
- I found that if you hold the bag straight up and stay in the center as you squeeze the piping bag, you end up with a more uniform (round) shape.
- I give a suggested dimension for the mounds (2″ across by 3/4″ tall). This will give you a yield of 24 cream puffs, and the diameter of the cream puffs will match that of the craquelin. That said, it’s more important that they’re all uniform in size rather than meeting these specific dimensions. Just be aware that bigger choux mounds will take more time to bake, and smaller ones will be done sooner.
- Gently place the craquelin on top of the choux so as to not squish your cream puffs. You want them as tall as possible for all the filling! The craquelin should be positioned parallel to the pan.
- Once baking, resist the urge to open the oven until baking is complete, as this could deflate your cream puffs!
- Once the cream puffs are baked, remove from the oven and poke a hole in the top of each with a toothpick. This will allow any residual steam to escape (otherwise, your cream puffs could deflate…sending a trend here?).
Making Pecan Pie Filling
For the best flavor for your pecan filling, toast the pecans! It’s a simple step, but adds more depth of flavor to the final product. To toast the pecans, spread then out on a baking sheet and toast in a single layer, checking/stirring often, at 350 F for 5-10 minutes.
My favorite part of this filling is the use of honey instead of corn syrup. Of course corn syrup will still work in the recipe, but I really love the floral flavor the honey lends!
I really love the punch of vanilla flavor from vanilla bean paste, so I added it to both the pecan filling and the whipped cream. If you’re interested in getting some for yourself, you can find it here. If you prefer to substitute, you can use an equal measure of vanilla extract.
The pecan filling comes together super quickly and easily all in once saucepan. Allow the filling to cool so it thickens a bit before filling your cream puffs. Do NOT refrigerate, as it will make the mixture too thick and sticky to work with!
How to Make Bourbon Whipped Cream
Last, but not least: the bourbon-vanilla whipped cream! I really liked the added flavor and warmth of the bourbon in the whipped cream. Love bourbon? You can add a little more. Not a fan? You can leave it out entirely and just go with vanilla whipped cream, it will still be super delicious.
These Pecan Pie Cream Puffs are best enjoyed same-day while the craquelin is still crisp. It’s also best to assemble the cream puffs as close to when you plan to serve them as possible. I hypothesize that leftover cream puffs would get soggy, but I’ve never had any left over to actually know. 😉
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Pecan Pie Cream Puffs
Brown Sugar Craquelin:
- ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
- 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup flour, sifted
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 125 grams water (½ cup + 1 Tbsp)
- 125 grams whole milk (½ cup + 1 Tbsp)
- 5 grams sugar (½ tsp)
- 5 grams salt (½ tsp)
- 140 grams flour (¾ cup + 2 Tbsp)
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup unsalted butter, diced (1 stick)
- ⅓ cup honey
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (see note)
- 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted (see note)
Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream
- 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (see note)
- 2 Tbsp bourbon
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and brown sugar. Mix until smooth.
- Add flour and salt and mix until fully incorporated and smooth. I like to gather the mixture together with a bowl scraper (see note).
- Place the mixture between two sheets of parchment (see note) and roll to approximately ⅛" thick. Place the butter mixture (still in the parchment) on a baking sheet and freeze 5 minutes.
- Once chilled, use a 2" round cutter (see note) to cut 24 rounds out of the craquelin. You can gather the scraps and re-roll them if necessary. Place the rounds in the freezer until you need them.
For Cream Puffs (Choux Pastry):
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line baking sheets with parchment (see note) and set aside.
- Combine water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, and while still on the heat, add the flour. Quickly beat mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth and shiny. Mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan. (Do not underbeat or cream puffs may deflate later!)
- Once mixture is thoroughly combined, scrape it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the mixer on low speed. With mixer running, add eggs one a time, allowing each egg to incorporate and mixture to become smooth before adding the next.
- Transfer batter to a pastry bag and cut a hole in the end (about 1/3" across). Pipe mounds of choux pastry at least 2" apart, each about 2" across and 3/4" tall (see notes). With those dimensions, you get about 24 cream puffs.
- Remove the craquelin from the freezer and place one round on top of each cream puff gently, without pressing down the dough. The craquelin should be positioned parallel to the pan.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and turn the oven off. Bake 10 minutes with the oven off. Turn oven back on to 350° F and bake another 10 minutes. Then, turn the oven off again, leaving the cream puffs to finish baking for another 10 minutes (This is 30 minutes in the oven total). Resist the urge to open the oven until baking is complete, as this could deflate your cream puffs!
- Once the cream puffs are baked, remove from the oven and poke a hole in the top of each with a toothpick. This will allow any residual steam to escape (otherwise, your cream puffs could deflate…sensing a trend here?). Allow cream puffs to cool completely.
For Pecan Filling:
- Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and mixture starts to boil. Let boil for one minute, then remove from the heat.
- Add vanilla bean paste (see note) and chopped pecans, and stir to combine. Allow to cool so it thickens a bit. Do NOT refrigerate, as it will make the mixture too thick and sticky to go in the cream puffs!
For Whipped Cream:
- Place cold heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean paste (see note) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start the mixer on low speed, and gradually increase the speed to high. Whip until the cream thickens and forms peaks.
- With the mixer running on low, gradually drizzle in the bourbon. Mix until combined.
- Split the cooled the cream puffs with a thin, serrated knife. (I find that a bread knife works well for this.) Try to do so gently so as not to break all the craquelin.
- Spoon the pecan filling into the bottom of each cream puff. Dollop or pipe the whipped cream on top of each, then replace the cream puff top. Garnish with additional whipped cream and a whole pecan, if desired. The cream puffs are best enjoyed same-day while the craquelin is still crisp. It's also best to assemble the cream puffs as close to when you plan to serve them as possible.Enjoy!
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