Hello friends! Yes, yes, I know that the holiday season is over, and you’re probably sick of gingerbread (and gingerbread flavored things) already, but there’s a story (and a lesson somewhere about frugality and off-season holiday goods shopping) behind this recipe.
I went grocery shopping at Harris Teeter last week and saw a table stacked with pumpkin spice and gingerbread flavored coffee creamers. When I approached to investigate, the lady standing at the table explained to me that they were giving away perfectly good holiday-themed creamers because the holiday season has ended. She urged me to grab one of each, and who was I to refuse? Thus, the inspiration for this week’s dessert was born!
If you’ve never heard of them, “religieuse” is a French word for “deliciously adorable stack of cream puffs”…or “nun”, because the dessert is named after its shape, which
kind of, sort of, not really resembles a nun in a habit. Despite the questionable aptness of their name, they’re twice as many cream puffs as a regular cream puff, and more than twice as impressive to serve at your next dinner party. Just fill and top with chocolate ganache in advance, then assemble and pipe on whipped cream just before you’re ready to serve! And in case you aren’t in a particularly gingerbready mood, feel free to swap out gingerbread creamer with any other flavor you’d prefer or skip the cocoa powder in chocolate pastry cream recipe and add a splash of your flavor extract of choice to change up the fillings. The options are endless! Hope you enjoy!
Chocolate Gingerbread Religieuse
Choux recipe adapted from 君之的博客
Makes 8 religieuse
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
120 g flour
2 large eggs
Gingerbread Pastry Cream:
1/3 cup + 2 tbs gingerbread flavored creamer
1/3 cup + 2 tbs milk (I used skim, but any kind should be ok)
1 tbs brown sugar (any kind)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
10 g flour
Chocolate Pastry Cream:
1 cup milk, preferably whole (I mixed 4 parts skim milk with 1 part whipping cream)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tbs cocoa powder
10 g flour
1/4 cup bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate chips
1 tbs milk (I used skim, but any kind should be ok)
1 cup whipping cream (heavy cream is also fine)
1/4 cup powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
Thinned chocolate ganache
Gingerbread man candy decorations (or chocolate chips)
- Preheat the oven to 410º F.
- Place oil, water, salt, and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low.
- Add in flour all at once and stir well to mix. Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the stove, and continue stirring until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. Allow the dough to cool until it is warm but not hot to the touch.
Tip: Do not proceed to the next step until the dough has cooled slightly. There’s really no such thing as over-cooling at this point. However, if you don’t wait for long enough, you will end up with a sad mixture of floury dough and scrambled eggs.
- Add in one egg and mix into dough until fully incorporated. Repeat with second egg.
Tip: This is easiest to do with a whisk or by using a cutting motion with a rubber spatula to break up the dough into smaller pieces, then mixing. Also, make sure to use large eggs. Using the wrong size egg can sometimes lead to
- Load the dough into a piping bag with a large round tip. Pipe the dough into spiraled cones of 2 different sizes: 8 larger ones with a bottom diameter of ~2″ and 8 smaller ones with a bottom diameter of 1-1.5″.
Tip: I used a Wilton 2A tip, but if you don’t have a large round tip, feel free to just cut a reasonably sized hole in the bottom of the bag. Since the pastry puffs up so much, it really doesn’t make too much of a difference whether or not you pipe through a tip. Also, I realized afterward that the larger cones might actually turn out better for this purpose if you pipe truncated cones (without the top few spirals) or a short cylinder shape to form a flat top surface instead of a pointed one.
- With a wet finger, gently push down the spiked top of each piped pastry.
- Bake choux pastries at 410º F for 13 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350º F and bake for another 25-30 minutes until the pastries are puffed with a nice golden color.
- Set pastries aside to cool until you are ready to fill them!
- Heat milk or milk/creamer mixture in a small pot on medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Whisk together remaining ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Pour in about 1/2 of the boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking quickly as you pour.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the pot through a sieve, whisking quickly as you pour. Continue whisking until the pastry cream thickens to the consistency of thick pudding, then remove from heat.
Tip: Always make sure to mix your eggs into the milk by tempering them with hot milk, then pouring through the sieve rather than dumping them all in at once. No matter how many times and how quickly I’ve tried to whisk while pouring in untempered eggs, I always ended up with unpleasantly eggy pastry cream because some of the egg inevitably scrambles as it hits the hot milk. After lots of sadness, disappointment, and wasted pastry cream, I finally started to use this tempering method as a virtually fool-proof strategy for keeping pastry cream (or any other type of custard) scrambled eggs-free!
- Pour the pastry cream into another bowl, cover the surface of the cream with saran wrap, and set aside to cool.
Tip: Make sure the saran wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream when you cover the bowl to prevent a skin from forming at the top of your pastry cream if the surface dries out.
- Pour the chocolate chips and milk in a microwaveable bowl.
- Heat up the mixture in the microwave on high, removing every 15 seconds to stir well, until the chocolate is fully incorporated and the ganache is smooth.
- Set aside for assembly!
- Pour cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Whip the mixture, gradually increasing the speed from the lowest to the highest setting over the span of 1 minute then maintaining the mixer at the highest speed, until the whipped cream reaches the stiff peak stage. This means that when you lift the whisk out of the whipped cream, the cream in the bowl holds its shape (any peaks remain sharp without bending over).
Tip: If you don’t own a stand mixer, feel free to whip the cream with a hand mixer or even with a whisk by hand if you’re feeling up to the arm workout! Either way, just stop when you reach the stiff peaked stage to avoid over-whipping.
- Set aside for assembly!
- Load the gingerbread pastry cream into a piping bag with a filling tip. Use the filling tip to poke a hole through each of the larger set of choux pastries and fill with pastry cream. Repeat to fill the smaller set of choux pastries with chocolate pastry cream.
Tip: I used a Wilton #230 tip, but any filling tip from the grocery store will do. In a pinch, you can use also a stiff straw to poke a hole through the bottom of the pastry and poke around through any thin layers of dough that may be in the interior of the pastry, then pipe through a small hole in a piping or sandwich bag.
- Dip the top half of each filled choux pastry in the chocolate ganache, twirling to coat evenly, and set aside.
Tip: If the chocolate ganache becomes too thick to coat the pastry, pop it back into the microwave and heat in 5 second intervals, stirring in between, until the ganache is thin enough to use.
- (Optional) If desired, thin the remaining ganache with milk to the consistency of honey and drizzle in a decorative pattern on each plate.
- Place the larger filled choux pastry in the center of your decorated plate, and carefully stack its corresponding smaller filled pastry on top. Repeat for each pair of pastries.
- Using piping bag filled with your whipped cream and an open star tip (I used one very similar to the Wilton #21), decorate your religieuse as desired (some sort of decorative border around the smaller pastry is traditional). Bon appetit!