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Le croquembouche

Croquembouche

I won’t lie. We are pretty proud of this! Croquembouche seems like the kind of thing that would be inordinately difficult, but it was surprisingly pretty simple.

When we found out that this was the Daring Bakers’ May challenge, we felt a little intimidated. But it all turned out well.

There are three fairly easy steps. First, make the pastry cream. Next, make the choux balls. Finally, construct your tower!

Pastry cream

I was in charge of the pastry cream. I based this on a recipe by Pierre Hermé included in The Cook’s Book. I reduced the sugar a little because I found it quite sweet, but otherwise all was good. I got a little inventive and decided to make three flavours: dark chocolate, raspberry and coffee.

Ingredients
750mL milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (optional, depending on flavourings)
9 egg yolks
¾ cup castor sugar
70g cornflour, sifted
70g dark chocolate, chopped or grated finely
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen, cooked to a jam in a saucepan for ten minutes
About 200ml espresso coffee, reduced to 1 tbs in a saucepan

  • Bring the milk, vanilla pod, cornflour and half the sugar just to the boil in a heavy based saucepan, whisking all the time. Remove from heat.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar until they are thoroughly combined. Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, in a steady stream. Whisk continuously.
  • Transfer mixture back to a clean pan and bring to the boil once again. Continue to whisk constantly. When boiled, immediately remove the pan from the heat. Remove the vanilla pod. Divide the mixture into three and add your choice of flavouring. To cool quickly, place saucepan in a bowl of iced water and stir. Leave to cool in the fridge (or freezer) for a few hours.
  • Stephanie recommends mixing these with some whipped cream to reduce the richness. We tried this but the cream became too liquid. If the mixture is too liquid, you can reheat in a saucepan again with some cornflour. Be careful of overdoing the cornflour though, the pastry cream can become claggy. (We speak from experience here.)
  • My personal favourite was the raspberry. Yum.

Pastry cream

Choux balls

We based our choux pastry on Stephanie Alexander’s recipe from our old favourite, The Cook’s Companion. It’s just such a reliable old tome; I can’t go past it. This probably makes about 60 choux – plenty for constructing and eating.

Ingredients
120g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1½ cups water
300g spelt flour (or use 250g normal wheat flour), sifted
6 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 180 Celsius.
  • In a saucepan, combine the butter, salt and water. Bring to the boil and remove from heat.
  • Add the flour in one go and stir to combine. Return pan to a medium heat.
  • Continue stirring until the mixture dries out a little and starts to leave the sides of the pan. For us, this happened immediately (see picture).

choux pastry

  • Put mixture in a food processor or mixer with a paddle beater. Add the eggs one at a time. Ensure that each egg is well combined before adding the next one.
  • Pipe or spoon the mixture onto baking paper lined trays. We piped balls of about an inch in diameter. Leave some space in between for them to puff. You can push down the tips with a finger dipped in hot water to make a spherical ball.
  • Pipe a few long ones if you want to make eclairs as well!
  • Bake in an oven for 40 minutes until they are golden on the outside, but dry on the inside. Cool.

Choux Balls

Construction

Next up, you must construct your croquembouche. For this, you must make a toffee, which is basically the cement for your little tower.

Ingredients for toffee
1 cup sugar
½ tsp lemon juice

  • Fill your piping bag up with the pastry cream.
  • Use a small knife to make a hole in the balls, and stick the nozzle of the piping bag in. Pipe away until all your balls are full.

Filling the choux balls

Full choux balls

  • Finally, make the toffee/cement. Simply combine the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and stir.
  • Place saucepan on a medium heat. Dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. When the syrup becomes a light caramel colour, remove it from the heat.
  • Working quickly, dip the choux balls into the toffee and begin your construction. If the toffee begins to harden, you can reheat it. Be careful; it burns! (But you survive. I had many a toffee burn on my fingertips after the gingerbread house construction and I lived to tell the tale.)
  • When the croquembouche is constructed, it is time to decorate. We went down the traditional route and spun some toffee round and round. We then decorated it with some little rose buds from the garden.
  • Delightful!

Toffe spinning croquenbouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

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25 Responses to “Le croquembouche”

  1. WOW – sensational! Beautifully made and photographed.

  2. chef_d says:

    Very nicely done! I bet the raspberry was super yummy!

    • Saskia says:

      Thanks – I did love that raspberry! I just found some frozen ones in the freezer so I got lucky. I’ve since seen some pretty cool flavours that other people used. Mango, banana, coconut…wow!

  3. Anna says:

    That looks amazing! I’d love to make one for a special occasion. How quickly do you think you need to eat it?

    • Emily says:

      Depends on the weather a bit. If it’s hot or humid the toffee will start to melt and won’t hold the choux pastries together.

      You can make the choux pastries and keep them unfilled for up to a week. I wouldn’t fill the choux too far in advance as they will go soggy. Once it is assembled I think the caramel would hold everything together (weather depending) so I think it would probably last a couple of days. That said, it is probably best the day it is all assembled. We served ours about 8 hours after we made it and the leftovers (not that there were many) were fine the next day.

      Good luck with it if you try to make it! It was much simpler than we expected but as Saskia said, the toffee part is a little scary!!!

  4. Oh my gosh, well done! With those beautiful pink roses and delicate spun toffee, it wouldn’t be out of place at a ye olde Teaparty for Ladies with quaint porcelain teacups and pretty dresses. I love it!

    • Saskia says:

      Ha ha! Yes this would be quite the piece at a high tea party! The rose buds were a last minute addition from the garden but I think they look pretty too!

  5. wic says:

    you should be proud, this looks absolutely amazing.

    • Saskia says:

      Thanks – we are! This challenge was so intimidating but it looks like it worked out well for pretty much everyone who tackled it.

  6. Julie M. says:

    Beautiful croquembouche! How was the raspberry filling? It looks divine!

    • Emily says:

      The raspberry was delicious and was Saskia’s favourite! Personally, I can’t get past chocolate custard!!!

  7. Renata says:

    Very delicate… perfect classic Croquembouche!

    • Saskia says:

      Thanks Renata – we tried! Next time I’d love to go crazy and make a savoury one or one with some mad flavours. Seeing everyone else’s has me quite inspired!

  8. Tresna says:

    That’s some pretty impressive work! I wish I could have been there to help eat it!

    • Saskia says:

      It was good but almost too good. Felt a little ill after consuming a literal mountain of pastry cream!

  9. Annabelle Wilson says:

    Wow!
    This is AMAZING Sas and Em! Very impressive! I had one for my 18th from a little French Patisserie shop in Geelong but this one looks soo good!!!
    Well done!
    x

    • Saskia says:

      Thanks Annabelle. I can show you how to make one next time we’re at lorne if you like. It was actually pretty easy. I’d love to try making chocolate eclairs as well. Yum x

  10. Megan says:

    Oh wow! Those are cream puffs? I was wondering what it was before I started reading your blog. Great job! I love cream puffs and they are fun to make. Thanks for this great idea. I’ll be off making my own tower of cream puffs.

    • Saskia says:

      Yes they are cream puffs. It seems like there are a hundred different names for the little balls! I definitely would encourage you to have a go – this was great fun!

  11. bakingaddict says:

    Wow great job. Love the different flavours.

    • Saskia says:

      Thanks! I loved coming up with the different flavours. You could have such a great time coming up with a thousand different fillings for these little guys!

  12. Felicia says:

    Hey
    Like you I’m on a quest to find the best macaron in melbourne, and there’s one more place you should check out. There’s a Japanse patisserie inside Fujimart, which is near Prahan market and I can assure you the macarons are good! no air pocket and right amount of chewiness, definitely should go check it out 🙂 and see if it meets ur standards 🙂

  13. Michelle says:

    Wow! Beautifully done!

  14. […] recipe for making choux pastry. I was also reassured that it would work after I read this attempt http://itpleasesus.com/2010/05/27/le-croquembouche/ I was very concerned with undercooking the pastry again, and in my oven, I think they probably […]

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