Canadian Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago, so we’ve already gone through the eating. We were lucky not to have to prepare our dinner ourselves. Instead, we ate dinner with our favourite food friends and their family. They cooked for 18 people (sorry guys, if I got the number wrong. If it was more, the idea remains the same– impressive), and all that we had to do was the pie. So on Thanksgiving Sunday I was in my kitchen rolling out pie crust for six pies– and pleading with and cajoling and cursing at the pastry. In the end, it turned out okay, but as I was making the pumpkin pie filling, my mother’s classic recipe, Carlo mentioned that it would taste good frozen. That’s how our ice cream was born.

Growing up in Canada, I always celebrated Thanksgiving twice. My parents, Americans, collected an assortment of American friends who came over every year to celebrate the US holiday. Now that I’m across the country and planning my own feasts, I think I’m going to hold on to this idea. It’s like having a test run. Or two Christmases.

If you’re looking for an alternative Thanksgiving idea, I offer you these pastry bites. The ice cream on its own is divine. I modified my mother’s pumpkin pie filling recipe (if you’re interested in the original filling, let me know. The proportions and ingredients are nearly identical to this one, but the technique for preparation is a little simpler) to create a rich custard base in which the typical, warm pumpkin spices steeped. After the spices were steeped in, I added some pumpkin puree and bits of candied ginger. The result is a smooth, cool base warmed up by cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, with a bit of extra texture from the pumpkin. The candied ginger is optional, but I like the chewy zing that it offers.

However, this ice cream popped into a cream puff (profiterole) take the whole thing over the top. The buttery, eggy puff is a nod to pie pastry without the necessary fiddling and rolling. Julia Child says in Mastering the art of French Cooking that once you have the profiterole technique down, it’ll take you no more than 30 minutes to get the puffs assembled and into the oven. This is an excellent recipe to have in your arsenal, because you can use it in a million different ways. When I was a little girl, my mother used to make these and fill them with whipped cream. My brother and friends have also filled them with Bailey’s whipped cream. As Julia Child notes, you can also make a savoury version (for example, my friend makes them with cheese). Finally, ANY kind of ice cream goes inside profiteroles beautifully, and their nubbly, puffy tops are perfect receptacles for caramel or chocolate syrup. Next time I make these, I’m considering a ginger caramel syrup to go on top of the puffs. Ooh… I’m hungry again.

makes about 1 litre (1Qt.)

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar, but white sugar would work fine too. Depends on the flavours you’re interested in)
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
pinch of nutmeg (optional–I never add it)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned; just make sure not to buy premade pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup candied ginger, diced small (optional)

To prepare the custard:

-Whisk together the egg yolks, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl until they’re well-blended. Set them aside.
– Warm the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring it almost to a boil (the surface will begin to ripple), but do not allow it to boil, or else it will cook your egg yolks. When the surface ripples, remove the cream from the heat.
-Temper the egg yolks by pouring 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolks, whisking them constantly. Pour the tempered yolk-cream mixture back into the sauce pan, again whisking constantly.
-Put the saucepan back over medium heat and stir it (yeah… still constantly) with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened into a custard. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BOIL. You’ll know it’s done when the custard coats the back of the spoon without running. (Here’s an image)

To prepare and freeze the ice cream:

-Strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium stainless-steel bowl. Stir in the pumpkin puree and mix well.
-To cool the mixture, fill a large bowl with ice cubes and a bit of cold water. Place the bowl with the ice cream base into the larger bowl and stir the custard for about five minutes to chill it. At this point, you can be quick and not-so-gourmet and freeze the base immediately (which we often do with our ice creams). The base, as long as it has been chilled over the ice until it’s really cold, freezes well and has a good texture. Your second alternative, to chill the ice cream base in the fridge for 4-24 hours is a better choice, as it yields a slightly creamier texture. The choice is yours, but honestly, if you haven’t got much time, don’t worry. Freezing immediately works just fine.
-Last step: freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture is done, turn it quickly into a steel bowl that has about half the candied ginger in it. Working quickly, sprinkle the rest of the ginger on top and stir it all in before transferring the ice cream to a storage container.
-It’s best to freeze your ice cream for at least a few hours to firm it up before eating it.

recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for 10-12 puffs about 3 inches in diameter.

1 cup water
6 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus one extra for glazing the tops of the puffs

-Preheat your oven to 425
-In a small saucepan, boil the water, salt, sugar and butter until the butter is melted.
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately pour in all the flour. Stir vigorously until the flour is incorporated and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
-Put the saucepan back over medium heat and continue stirring the flour mixture until it begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan.
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break an egg into this well and beat it in until it’s well-incorporated. Do the same with the next egg, continuing until you’ve used up all the eggs. Beat the pastry for a little bit after all the eggs have been incorporated, to ensure everything is holding together well.
-Drop the pastry onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The puffs should each be about 2 inches across and 1 inch high. Space them about 2 inches apart.
-Beat an egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush a light coating of beaten egg over the tops of the puffs to help them get super-golden.
-Bake the puffs for 20 minutes, turning them halfway to ensure they brown evenly.
-After 20 minutes, turn down the oven to 375, and continue to bake the puffs for another 10-15 minutes, until they’re golden and crusty.
-Take the puffs out of the oven and make a little inch-long horizontal slit in the side of each puff. Then put them back in the turned-off oven, with the door a little ajar. This will help them to dry out inside, so they’re not soggy.


Cut the puffs in half after they’ve cooled. Empty out the moist insides with your fingers, then fill the puffs with a scoop or two of pumpkin ice cream. If you’ve got whipped cream, please use it. Add a little dollop on top of the ice cream before replacing the cap of the profiterole. If you’re feeling really decadent, consider a glug of caramel syrup on top of it all.