Let it snow: snowman religieuse

When I was thinking of festive, winter wonderland treats, I wanted to do something with a snowman in mind. One of my first thoughts was pavlova, but I’ve already made quite a few of those, so I had to do something else. Instead, I thought about religieuse, which is basically a fancy way of saying a double decker cream puff. I originally wanted to do a glaze, but almost all of my attempts with the glaze just did not settle right – they would either come off looking like melted snow or just too polished and not natural at all. The eyes and scarf, I could make from chocolate and marshmallow. And when I think of chocolate and marshmallow, I think to hot chocolate right away. The one kicker was the nose. Over two years, I struggled to figure out what the nose would be made out of. But then I settled on candied orange peels, since that works with mint and chocolate, and the sugar crystalizing the orange makes it look like snow or ice! Honestly, the thought process for these happened super organically, because it all made sense together! Truthfully, this dessert has been on my mind for quite a while now. I actually intended to post this recipe back in winter of 2019, but the original attempt went… well let’s just say that the glazed versions caused my sister to say they looked like something a Nailed It! contestant would make, and I thought they looked like something from the Nightmare Before Christmas, so it was agreed between the two of us that I needed to improve this recipe first.

When I thought about the fillings and garnishes, I knew I needed balance and contrast. One thing I hate about glazing cream puffs with royal icing or even a mirror glaze or decorating fondant is that they’re too sweet. My first attempt at making these last year, I tried to use a glaze, but it did not cling to the puff properly, and resulted in the glaze just sliding off and giving the original snowmen this “melted” look I was not going for. Eventually, I realized if I baked a craquelin(thin shortbread layer) onto the puff and dusted them with a white snow-like powder, the craquelin would catch that and give the puffs a snowed on-type of appearance. So I opted for a white chocolate and peppermint maltodextrin powder, which perfectly resembled snow anyways! The great thing about maltodextrin powders is that they have very light flavoring to them, so I knew I could use the white chocolate and it would not be too sweet. While my marshmallows were pure sugar, instead of coating them in powdered sugar, I just opted for cornstarch. For my filling, instead of doing a standard chocolate mousse, I went with my tofu-based one, which is sugar-free. Pate choux, which is used for cream puffs and eclairs, is typically an unsweetened dough as well. By having components that lacked sugar, or cutting back on it where I know I can, it effectively creates a purpose for sweeter ingredients like the marshmallow.

For the craquelin:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

Mix together to form a dough. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out 9 1-inch rounds and 9 3/4-inch rounds. Transfer to the freezer until it is time to bake the choux.

For the pate choux:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
a pinch of salt

Heat water, butter, and salt until butter is fully melted. Add in your flour and stir until it forms a shiny ball. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool before whisking in your eggs. Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe out 9 1-inch rounds and 9 3/4-inch rounds, pressing the tops with water to round off the tips. Press on top of the pate choux the similarly sized disks of craquelin dough. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes before switching to 350 degrees F for another 10 minutes. Cool completely before cutting holes into the bottoms of the puffs to pipe your fillings in with.

For the filling:
1 cup silken tofu
1 cup dark chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
a pinch of clove
a pinch of black pepper

Puree the ingredients using a Vitamix blender or a food processor until creamy. Alternatively, heat up the chocolate chips with the spices until melted and whisk in the silken tofu. Pass through a sieve if using the second method. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until firm.

For the orange peels:
1 blood orange, peeled and juiced
1/2 cup granulated sugar, in two parts
1 cup water, in two parts
a pinch of salt
a pinch of clove
a pinch of cinnamon

In a pot, simmer the orange peels in water first for 5 minutes. Drain the water and repeat. Drain the water again and this time, add in the blood orange juice, half the sugar, and your seasonings. Slice the peels into smaller, triangular pieces. Reduce the seasoned juice and sugar with the peels until it forms a sticky syrup and the peels are translucent. Transfer to a freezer for 5 minutes, then toss in the remaining sugar to finish.

For the “snow”:
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup tapioca maltodextrin

Melt white chocolate and salt together in the microwave or over a double boiler. Add in the extract and mix until combined. Fold into the melted white chocolate your maltodextrin powder carefully until it forms a crumbly white powder. Store in an airtight container.

For the marshmallow:
1 packet gelatin powder + 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon spearmint or peppermint extract
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons beetroot powder
canola oil or cooking spray

Bloom gelatin with water and beetroot powder in a mixing bowl. Bring water, salt, and sugar to a simmer. Once the liquid is reduced by 2/3, pour onto your gelatin and whip for 10 minutes, or until light and airy. Gently line the inside of a piping bag with some oil. Equip the piping bag with a rose petal piping tip. Dust a tray with a generous layer of cornstarch and pipe your marshmallows onto the cornstarch in long lines, dusting them with more cornstarch on both sides to prevent them from sticking. Using a small fork or knife, slice at the ends of the marshmallows to create the effect of frayed fabric, just to make the marshmallows better resemble scarves.

For the eyes and buttons:
dark chocolate

Melt dark chocolate over a double boiler with a small pinch of salt. Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe onto the cooled down cream puffs to form your eyes and buttons

For assembly:
Pipe the filling into the cream puffs first. Decorate the smaller cream puffs, which will be the head of the snowman, using the melted chocolate. Use a knife to make an incision between and below the two eyes, and stick in a candied orange peel. Dust onto all of your puffs a generous sifting of the mint powder first. Pipe a small dollop of filling onto the larger puff and wrap the marshmallow scarves around that. Place on the smaller cream puff to finish.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Virginia L. says:

    These adorable treats leave me speechless. The “nose job” is ingenious. I love the touch of whimsy that you infused with all sorts of yumminess. You are an artist and…. you live and breathe in the artistry of pastry. So in awe!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s