How to Make Croquembouche: Step-by-Step with Pictures and Videos
Literally translated from French, croquembouche -- or croque-en-bouche -- means 'crunch in the mouth'. It is a name usually given to a tall pyramid of choux puffs dipped in toffee.
The pyramid is easily made by piling the puffs one on top of the other, but a conical metal croquembouche tin can be used to achieve a more perfect shape. Butter the inside of the tin, then fill it loosely with the choux puffs dipped in toffee. When the toffee has set, invert the tin and lift it off the croquembouche. Alternatively, construct the croquembouche around a tall cone of thin gold card.
The croquembouche can be decorated with crystallized violets or other edible flowers (which are available from specialty cake suppliers) and rosettes of piped cream.
Assemble the croquembouche as near to the time to be eaten as possible - it cannot be kept in the refrigerator because the toffee will go soft and lose its shine. The puffs, however, can be made a day ahead and kept in an airtight tin. They also freeze well, but will benefit from a couple of minutes in a hot oven after defrosting to crisp them. The cream filling will keep for 2-3 days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.
You will need this recipe
- How to Make Choux Pastry
Unlike other pastries, choux pastry is made in a saucepan and rather than being rolled, the soft, glossy dough is piped or spooned into shape. The best flour to use is strong white plain (bread-making) flour....
Preparation time: 1 ¼ hours
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Oven temperature: preheat to 425° F (220° C)
You will need
- Choux pastry made with 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs, separated
- ½ cup caster sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Pinch of salt
- 1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- Crystallized violets or other edible flowers
- Whipped cream
Filling choux puffs - step 1
1. Fit a piping bag with a ¼ inch (5 mm) nozzle. Fill the bag with the filling for puffs.
Filling puffs - steps 2 and 3
2. Take one of the baked puffs and squeeze in the filling through the hole made in the puff to let out the steam.
3. Shake the puff gently to get the filling into all its corners inside. Then top up the puff with more filling.
- Alternatively, cut the baked puffs almost in half horizontally. Open them up and fill them from the piping bag or with a teaspoon.
How to make croquembouche
Using a teaspoon or a piping bag fitted with a 2/3 inch (15 mm) nozzle, put walnut-sized mounds of the choux pastry onto wet baking trays, leaving 2 inches (5 cm) between each one. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until well risen and golden-brown. Pierce each puff with a sharp knife to let the steam escape. Return the puffs to the oven for 2-3 minutes to dry out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Next make the filling for the puffs. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3 ounces (90 g) of the caster sugar until thick and pale yellow in color. Beat in the flour and a little of the milk. Bring the remaining milk to the boil in a large pan. Pour slowly onto the egg yolks, beating all the time. Return the egg yolk mixture to the pan and stir over moderate heat until thick and boiling. Lower the heat and boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla essence.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Fold in the remaining caster sugar. Stir a large spoonful of egg white into the custard, then add the Grand Marnier, if used, and stir again. Fold in the remaining egg white. Leave to cool. Fill the puffs.
To make the toffee, put the sugar and water in a pan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and boil fiercely until it turns a golden-brown or reaches the 'small crack' stage - 280-305° F (138-152° C) - when ½ teaspoon of the syrup dropped into a bowl of cold water separates into brittle threads. Remove from the heat and immediately dip the base of the pan into cold water to stop the toffee cooking.
Quickly dip the top of each filled puff into the toffee. Be very careful not to burn your fingers. Arrange in a pyramid on a dish, sticking them together with the toffee. If the toffee starts to harden, melt it over a low heat. If necessary, make more toffee using half quantities of sugar and water.
Decorate as desired and keep the croquembouche in a cool place (not the refrigerator). For inspiration, some photos showing just a few of the numerous ways that croquembouche may be decorated are posted below.
All photos with the exception of 'filling choux puffs' are courtesy of Flickr.
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