Croquembouche (French Creme Puffs) untried
History of the Croquembouche
Croquembouche is a French dessert made by stacking cream puffs in a conical shape and cementing them together with a toffee. The dessert is typically ornamented with sugared almonds, or other ingredients, and it is designed to be displayed as the centerpiece of a table. This dessert has been used at French weddings, christening and celebrations for centuries, and it is served outside of France to add a French flair to an evening's events.
The croquembouche has a long history. It appears to have been invented by French pastry chef Antoine Careme (1783-1833) in the late 1700s, when it became very popular as a wedding cake. Many of the individual components such as the cream puffs date to the 1500s, illustrating the long history of fine pastries in France.
This pastry concoction is one of a family of desserts known as pièces montées, or "mounted pieces."
A pièce montée is a dessert which is carefully constructed from an assortment of components, and designed to look as ornate and festive as possible. These desserts are often so elaborate that people are hesitant to eat them, and in some cases, a pièce montée may actually be specifically designed to be ornamental, including inedible ingredients like wax or cardboard to support the structure.
This impressive tower of small cream puffs (profiteroles) and caramelized sugar is well worth the effort. Be sure to start the dessert well in advance, taking advantage of all the useful do-aheads. Last minute assembly is a must for the caramelized sugar so allow several hours and have all ingredients ready
- 3 c
- 1 1/2 c
- butter, unsalted (3 sticks)
- 3 c
- 1/2 tsp
- 12 large
- 4 c
- whipping creamsplit length wise
- 3 c
- vanill bean (split lengthwise)
- 16 large
- egg yolks
- 2 c
- 1 1/3 c
- 1/2 tsp
- 5 c
- 1 1/4 c
- corn syrup, light or dark(up to you)
- 1 1/4 c
FOR CREAM PUFF CHOUX PASTRY)
FOR VANILLA PASTRY CREAM:
FOR CARAMELIZED SUGAR:
Bring water and butter to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt all at once and stir until mixture pulls away from sides forming mass, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to heavy duty mixer fitted with wire beater.
With mixer running at medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic and let stand until cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon half of dough into large pastry bag fitted with plain 1/2-inch round tip.
Pipe 3/4 to 1-inch mounds onto baking sheets, spacing apart. Press peaks down onto mounds using moistened fingertip. Bake until golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. Turn off oven. Pierce side of each puff with small sharp knife or a toothpick to allow steam to escape. Return puff to oven for 10 minutes to dry interior. Repeat with remaining pastry.
(Puffs can be prepared ahead. Store in freezer bags at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.
If frozen, thaw carefully in single layer on paper towel lined baking sheets to avoid any moist spots.)
Bring cream, milk and vanilla bean to boil in heavy large saucepan. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, flour and salt to blend in large bowl. Gradually beat in hot cream mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and whisk over medium heat until mixture becomes very thick and boils.
Transfer to bowl and remove vanilla bean. Cool completely, stirring occasionally. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled. (Can be made up to 4 days ahead.)
Spoon some of pastry cream into pastry bag fitted with plain 1/4-inch tip. Insert tip into score on each puff and fill with cream. Repeat until all puffs are filled.
CARAMELIZED SUGAR AND ASSEMBLY:
Select a croquembouche pastry cone available at pastry supply stores (see picture below) for assembly of cream-puff balls into a croquembouche pyramid.
Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan.
Boil without stirring until mixture turns amber in color, brushing down any crystals that form on sides of pan with moist pastry brush, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and place on cold surface to stop cooking.
Using tongs, carefully dip cream puff into caramel and place around base of cone. Repeat dipping and placing puffs on cone's surface fitting puffs evenly onto sides. forming concentric circles until caramel is used. Cut the tip from balloon whisk, dip into caramel, and whirl strands of caramel around croquembouche to form a spun sugar web.
If caramel begins to harden, reheat briefly over medium heat to liquefy. Croquembouche will hold up several hours at room temperature. Serve by cracking caramel with back of sharp knife and removing individual cream puffs.