Gingerbread infused custard filled choux buns was a happy experiment.
I had some left over gingerbread from something i had baked and didn’t want it to go to waste. Originally my idea was to make ice cream but i changed my mind at the last minute and made custard.
I had made infused custards before using cereals and toast so i thought it might work.
It was really yummy, so i thought it would be great in some gingerbread craquelin topped choux buns.
It is a great dessert to serve for Christmas because the buns can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container, then on the day they can be put back in the oven briefly to crisp back up before filling with the custard.Jump to Recipe
If you feel like the custard is a faff to make, or you dont have a nut bag then you can make a normal vanilla custard and add spices to it instead or even make a whipped cream filling.
I have made this without a nut bag, i found it was just very hard to strain it back to a milk like constancy, it was more like a thick shake as the gingerbread just disintegrated and soaked up all the liquid.
It meant i didn’t need to add corn flour when heating it for custard and resulted in a thick pudding like consistency which was actually very yummy. Though for the purpose of this recipe and getting it to be like a pastry cream i would suggest using one, or some muslin cloth and a fine mesh sieve.
Dont squeeze the bag too hard when straining either, just do in gently.
Important recipe notes on choux pastry
Choux pastry can be quite daunting, and that’s because it is one of those recipes that has a lot of science behind it. The recipe it is a very simple, just water, butter, flour and eggs, in this case i used half milk and half water for the liquid.
However it relies on a a few things being done while its being made, and they are done to help with the most important thing which is steam. That is why sometimes a choux recipe can have a different outcome each time as its hard to gage how everyone will make it.
I could make the same recipe 10 times and try to make it in exactly the same way but i find the amount of eggs needed can vary from day to day. A few things can cause this,
The butter not melting before the water boiled, the quality of flour, the amount of steam lost when cooling the pastry down and many more reasons.
So its important for you to know what the consistency that the dough should be when adding the eggs and then you add what you need to get to that consistency, regardless of the recipe.
If you are unsure then i suggest watching some clips from cooking shows or you tube videos first just so you can see. This one explained some of the importance of steam.
If i was to describe what it should look like, then it would be a smooth glossy dough that falls in a v shape when a spoon, or mixer attachment is held up, the v shape will hold there for a moment then drop off. Its firm but not too firm, but you dont want it too loose to hold its shape either.
If you read that and haven’t made choux pastry before then you are likely put off now, but dont be, it sounds much more complicated than it is. Just use your intuition and remember steam is choux pastries best friend.
The buns need to be baked until they feel hollow, then a hole can be made in each one to allow the steam inside to escape, then they can put put back in a low oven to crisp up.
Craquelin is like cookie dough that is added on top, it creates a delicious crunchy shell, and it also helps keep a uniform shape.
When you pipe them, the amount for each bun will look very small, however they will puff up 2 or 3 times the size so leave space between each one.
I made a gingerbread infused custard, but you can make a regular pastry cream and just add spices to it, or fill with spiced Chantilly cream.
Gingerbread choux buns
- piping bag
- 2 baking trays
- baking paper
- muslin cloth or nut bag for straining
For the gingerbread infused custard
- 165 g gingerbread cookies
- 450 ml milk (plus more after infusing it to make it back up to 450ml)
- 60 g dark brown sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp all spice
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp corn flour see notes
- 300 ml double cream (this is optional, its whipped and added to thicken the custard)
- 100 g unsalted butter (very soft)
- 45 g dark brown sugar
- 65 g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 110 g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 120 g water
- 120 g whole milk
- 120 g unsalted butter diced
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 175 g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6-8 large eggs see notes
To make the custard
- I have made this without a nut bag and i had to strain it a few times through a fine mesh sieve, so i would recommend using a nut bag for this recipe if you can. It is a cloth muslin bag that is used for straining.
- Place gingerbread in the cloth bag. I used left over gingerbread from a house i made. It had started to go soft and i didn't want it to go to waste. I put the cookies back in the oven for 5 minutes then let them cool to harden them back up.Add the milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Place the bag of cookies in and then place some plastic wrap on top touching the milk so a skin doesn't form and leave to infuse for at least 20/30 minutes, longer if possible. Once the gingerbread has been infusing for a while and the milk has cooled, swish the bag round a little to release the flavour.Lift the bag out and gently squeeze it. You dont want to squeeze it so hard that the mixture comes out, just the liquid (dont worry if you do press too hard and some of the thick dissolved gingerbread comes out, if you find you are left with a thick milk mixture even after straining you will just need a little less corn flour). Once you have gently squeezed out as much liquid as you can, pour it through a sieve into a measuring jug. You should have around 250-300 ml, top it up with more milk to make 450 ml again.Put the milk back in a pan and put back on the heat.While that is coming to the boil mix the yolks, sugar, spices, vanilla and corn flour (see notes) a pinch of salt then start by pouring in 1/4 of the hot milk and mix.Once mixed pour in a little more. keep stirring it.Pour back into the pan and stir over the heat until it thickens.Pour through a sieve into a bowl and press a layer of plastic wrap on top touching the custard so a skin doesn't form.Leave to cool
Make the craquelin
- This needs to be made in advance so it can be put in the freezer so it can be cut into circles to be placed on the choux buns.The butter needs to be softened. Beat softened butter together with sugars in a mixer until pale a creamy about 4 minutes, then using a spatula scrape around the bowl and mix for a minute more to make sure its combined.Add the spices, salt and flour and mix again until well combined. the mixture will be very soft.Flour a sheet of baking paper and place the dough on top. Sprinkle over some more flour and place another sheet of baking paper on top then using a rolling pin roll out as thinly as possible. Place in the freezer to firm up.(The thinner the better, if the craquelin is too thick it can weight the choux down as it rises)
Make the choux pastry
- Preheat the oven to 180c 350fIn a pan add the water and milk (you can use 240g water if you prefer)Add the diced butter and sugar with the liquid and heat until the butter has melted. See notesWhile the pan is on the heat beat in the flour and salt and stir for two minutes to make a roux like mixture. It will look strange at first but keep mixing and it will come together. Make sure all the flour has been mixed in. The pastry will come away from the sides of the pan.Place the mixture in a bowl (if you have a stand mixer use the paddle attachment and beat for 30 seconds to help it cool down) If you dont have a stand mixer then spread the mixture out on a tray to cool down for 5 minutes. You want to cool it down it as quickly as possible with out loosing too much steam, but you dont want it too hot that the eggs will cook when you add them. (It doesn't need to be cold just cooled so its no longer boiling).Now is the part that is very important and can cause you to go wrong with choux pastry. It is almost impossible to give the exact amount of eggs needed for a recipe as there are a lot of variables. How long you had it on the heat, the type of flour, the moisture in the flour, the amount of steam etc. I mix 6 eggs in a jug then add them gradually a little at a time while mixing on a low speed. At first it will look like its split but as you mix it will come back together, once it comes back together add more. I find that often i will need a 7th egg so i add that gradually too, test it by holding the beater up and seeing if it forms a v shape, if not add a little more egg.
- This part you need to use some intuition so it is very helpful if you watch a video to see the correct consistency you are looking for. The mixture when it has the right amount of eggs will dangle from the spoon or paddle attachment in a v shape, it will hold that shape for a moment before falling off. it will be soft and shiny, (See video at bottom of the post)
- Once the dough looks right add it into a piping bag with a half inch nozzle, or just cut the end off a disposable bag.
- On a lined tray pipe small mounds, these will puff up so make sure you leave space between them so allow for this. Before piping the choux dough on you can sprinkle a little water on the tray to create steam which will aid in rising.
- I pipe one tray at a time as i have a small oven and prefer them to all be on one shelf.Take the craquelin out from the freezer and cut with a small cutter. It can be re rolled and cut again. As we are making small profiterole sized buns i used the back of a pastry horn cone to cut the circles, a large piping nozzle may also be a good size. Add the craquelin disks on top of each one then bake for 20 to 25 minutes. until golden
- Turn the oven down to 120c poke a hole into each bun then place them back in the oven for 10 minutes more. They should feel hollow. The gingerbread craquelin will have a brown colour.
- The custard = as gingerbread has flour in it, if it is not strained well you will get a thick mixture, i feel it is better to use a nut/straining bag to make this. I have made it with out one and the cookie/biscuits disintegrated into a thick sludge. I had to strain it about 5 times and it was still very thick, it tasted nice though and didn't require any additional flour. If you find after staining that you have a thick mixture then reduce the amount of corn flour.
- Its important to use diced butter for the choux pastry because you want it to melt before the water boils so it doesn't evaporate.
- Craquelin – roll craquelin as thinly as possible between two sheets of baking paper. If too thick it can weight it down. you can re roll it and cut more if needed.
- Eggs = the quantity of eggs can vary with choux pastry. If you release too much steam, or your flour has moisture in, a number of things can affect it so you need to use your insight and add what you feel is the right amount. You are looking for a smooth shiny dough that forms a v shape when you hold spoon up. It should hang there for a moment then fall off.
- steam helps them rise so sprinkle a few drops of water on the tray.
- You must poke holes in the buns and put them back in the oven to help dry the insides out
- If you wish you can Whip 300ml double cream until thick and fold in to the custard. if your pastry cream is thick enough you may not wish too. add into a piping bag with a nozzle fitted and fill each bun.
- Assemble like a wreath and decorate as you wish, i used some gingerbread cookies,
- a chocolate sauce can be served with it,
- The buns can be baked in advance and kept unfilled in an air tight container for 3 -4 days. when ready to assemble they can be popped back in the oven for 5 minutes at 180c, this will crisp them back up, let them cool then fill them.Once filled they will need to be kept in the fridge so they will loose their crunch, so i recommend eating them on the day you fill them.
If you are looking for other Christmas dessert ideas here are some of my favourites
Christmas tree meringue tower