Ever the kid at heart, I absolutely love holiday traditions. My favorite Halloween one is pumpkin carving. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to pick out the best pumpkin from the bunch we were selling at the farm store, and set up shop on the kitchen table with my siblings and dad for a pumpkin carving extravaganza. Every year was an competition (at least in my mind) to take best in show for the most creative jack-o-lantern design.
Most years I stuck with classic designs, maybe throwing in some eyelashes or angled eyebrows for a little extra pizzaz. Dad, on the other hand, always went the extra mile. Elaborate eyes, curvy eyebrows, or even a full-out Frankenstein weren’t beyond him (and all without a pattern, mind you). My dad is a true pumpkin artist.
So imagine my delight when we received an invitation to a pumpkin carving party this past weekend. It wouldn’t be the same as the event back home, but it promised to be some good old fashioned fun, not to mention the perfect opportunity to test a some Halloween-inspired treats on a new captive audience!
I have been looking for an opportunity to practice my Pâte à Choux skills from my recent Pastry Fundamentals course, but also wanted to keep with the holiday theme. Based on my last pumpkin baking experiment, you can’t go wrong with a pumpkin / chocolate combo, so I decided to riff a bit on the original recipe and whip up a pumpkin spiced custard for chocolate-covered eclairs.
I found a recipe that made a smaller batch than the one from class. Since I am not quite acclimated with my new oven yet, I didn’t want to risk wasting a big batch in case the whole thing failed. I’m happy to report there were no pastry casualties and I ended up with 12 small eclairs.
I love watching the pastry shells rise in the oven like little rolls. The original recipe says they will bake in about 28 minutes, but mine turned to a golden brown a bit more quickly, at about 25.
Once done, I cut little slits in either end to let some air escape and popped them back in the still-warm switched-off oven, leaving the door open to let them dry out a bit, around 10-15 minutes. Then I put the tray on a baking rack to cool completely before piping in the custard.
Even when using 2% milk, the custard was thick. This was a great consistency for a pumpkin spice flavor; I can’t imagine a thinner texture being as appetizing. Plus, the extra oomph helped plump up some pastries that had deflated a bit, the thicker density allowing them to hold their shape without dripping out the ends.
My chocolate glaze was a bit thin, so be sure you get it thick and creamy enough before glazing, lest you’ll end up with ghoulish drips down the edges. While this was totally appropriate for a Halloween party, it might not be as appealing in any other setting.
To add a little extra Halloween flair, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin spiced buttercream frosting and topped off each with some fun piped designs. I also had enough leftover to dress up some cinnamon vanilla spiced cupcakes to share with the office the next day. Yum!
The end result may have looked like a kid made them, but heck, so did our carved pumpkins! Even so, they were a huge hit, the whole supply disappearing frighteningly fast.
Pumpkin Spice Eclairs
Pumpkin Pastry Cream
- 1 cup milk (any percentage is fine, I used 2%)
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tblsp all-purpose flour
- 2 Tblsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cloves
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Pate a Choux
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, diced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 Tblsp milk
- 1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pumpkin Pastry Cream
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it begins to steam but is not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, pumpkin puree, sugar, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Slowly drizzle in hot milk, whisking constantly to be sure you don’t scramble the eggs. Continue whisking and pouring until all of the liquid is incorporated.
- Transfer mixture back to your saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 3 to 6 minutes. It’s ready when it is the consistency of a thick pudding and coats your spoon or spatula. Stir vigorously until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Place a strainer over a medium bowl and strain pastry cream, using your spatula to push the mixture through.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, a minimum of an hour.
Pate a Choux
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. If desired, mark out placement of the pastry batter on the parchment, at least 2 inches apart and 3 inches long.
- Pre-measure out your flour and set aside. Note, getting the measurement as exact as possible is important. Weigh the appropriate amount if you have a scale.
- In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter is melted and the mixture reaches a boil, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Stir until flour is incorporated and the mixture pulls away from the sides and forms a thin film over the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer dough to a mixer bowl with paddle attachment and turn mixer on medium speed to mix and cool the dough, about 2 minutes. Add one egg and set mixer to medium-high to blend into the dough. Repeat with the second egg, occasionally scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. the mixture will separate and appear shiny, but should return to a smooth paste.
- Transfer dough mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch tip. Pipe 10 to 12 3-inch lines, at least 2 inches apart. Once finished, use a little water on your fingertip to pat down any tips that are sticking up from piping so they don’t burn.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes. Do not open the oven. At 25 minutes, check the eclairs. They should be lightly browned. If not, cook for an additional 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before filling.
Filling the Eclairs
- Use a chop stick or small, sharp knife to poke 2 small holes in either end of each eclair.
- Transfer your cooled pastry cream to a piping bag fitted with a 1/8-inch round tip.
- Fill each of the eclairs with a generous amount of pastry cream.
- In a small saucepan, combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla. Whisk over medium heat until butter is melted. Add chocolate and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and add the sifted powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Make sure the consistency is thick and creamy. Add more powdered sugar and corn syrup to thicken a bit more as necessary.
- Transfer glaze to a small bowl wide enough for dipping and dip filled eclairs. Allow glaze to set for 5 minutes before eating.
*Note: This recipe makes about twice the amount of glaze that will actually end up on the eclairs (to ensure you have enough to get a smooth finish when dipping). Save the rest for drizzling over ice cream later!
Adapted from: Baking Mischief
Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) room temperature
- 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick) room temperature
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (or if you don’t have any, mix together 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp clove)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar can add an extra cup if needed to thicken it up
- Add butters to a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until smooth.
- Add in the pumpkin, spices and vanilla and mix until smooth.
- Add in powdered sugar and beat until well mixed. If your buttercream is still too soft, add in another cup of powdered sugar and mix well.
Note: I halved the recipe to make frosting just for decorating the eclairs, and still had enough leftover to cover some cupcakes! If you do the same thing, chill the buttercream in the fridge for about 20 minutes to allow it to harden a bit.
Be sure to store any leftover buttercream in the fridge.
Adapted from: I Scream for Buttercream