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How to Make Croquembouche - Step by Step Recipe
It's Classic, It's French, It's Croquembouche!
Croquembouche (crunch in the mouth) is a classical French dessert that has been made since the late 1700's. Master Patissier and Chef, Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême (1783 - 1833), began to make these cakes, also known as "Piece Montées". (mounted pieces) in Paris, France for wedding cakes.
Carême has been celebrated as the first celebrity chef in history. He was a chef for Talleyrand, Czar Alexander I, George the IV and Baron Rothschild to name a few. It is said that he made Napoleon's wedding cake and golden flecked souffles for the Rothschilds. Carême was also a prolific food writer. In addition to all these endearing qualities, Carême was rumored to be a spy.
While he was pretending to be busy making tedious dessert towers he was listening to the table conversation from the kitchen. Taking notes and passing them along to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Tasty!
Traditionally, at French Weddings, the guests would bring cakes for the happy couple, piling them as high as possible. After the wedding the new bride and groom would kiss over the pile of cakes. If they didn't fall over it was a superstitious sign that they would enjoy wedded bliss for many happy years. If the cake fell, uh oh! Too late!
Carême came up with the concept of using a mixture of caramel and profiteroles to glue the tiny cakes together to ensure that each couple had equal opportunity for longevity and eternal bliss. In earlier days, the cake would be hacked off with a sword, ladies in waiting would catch the pieces with the edges of the tablecloth.
Croquembouche is now gaining popularity in the American culture for weddings, baptisms and parties. I was challenged by my friend and fellow hubber "writeronline" to make one of these foreign affairs. Being a glutton for punishment (and profiteroles) I couldn't wait to try this at home.
"Never eat more than you can lift." ~Ms. Piggy
Approaching a French Pastry
I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I have made profiteroles before so I was confident that I could do that part. The tower of power is what concerned me. I wasn't sure if I could construct this gorgeous amazon cake in my kitchen at home.
I consulted the experts. In one popular cooking site I visit for help a French pastry chef basically questioned the sanity of anyone who dared to try this. "Ask yourself why you want to make one is it just because it's pretty?" they posed.
No. For me it was because it is a beautiful dessert that tastes magnificent if made properly. I wanted to see if I could conquer croquembouche. Once I saw this architectural cake I had an overwhelming urge to make one and so I battened down the hatches and headed for the kitchen. A RealHousewife can do this bitch!
Profiteroles - Part 1
Profiteroles are what we Americans call "creme puffs." If you follow the instructions, you can't mess up. I mixed a couple of recipes together after consulting several websites of French Pastry Chefs. I basically used the recipe from masterchef.com but I tweaked it a bit and used another caramel recipe that I have used before.
This worked beautifully in my kitchen. I had a few errors but after 15 hours, we had Croquembouche.
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- 3/4 cups Butter, Unsalted
- 1 1/2 cups Flour, All purpose
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 6 Eggs, Large
- Bring water and butter to boiling in saucepan.
- Add flour and salt all at once. Stir for approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Just until it begins to pull away from the side of the pan.
- Transfer this hot mixture to mixer with wire beater and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Beat the eggs in one at a time, mixing well after each egg has been added. Beat until smooth.
- Cover and let it cool for at least 2 hours.
- Pipe small bits of batter leaving spaces between each one. Cook at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven off immediately. Quickly poke tiny holes in the side of each roll to allow the steam to escape and make pockets inside the puffs. Put the tray back in the oven for 10 minutes (do not turn it back on) to dry the centers out.
- After the custard has cooled, use a piping tip to fill the puffs.
Vanilla Pastry Creme - Part 2
- 2 Cups of Whipping Cream
- 1 1/2 Cups of Milk
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla
- 8 Egg Yolks
- 1 Cup of Sugar
- 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
- 3/4 Cups of Flour
Mix the cream, milk and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, flour and salt together in a large bowl. Gradually beat the hot cream mixture into the dry mix. Return all to the saucepan and bring to a boil until it becomes very thick. Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool completely, stirring it occasionally. Cover it with plastic and you can refrigerate it for up to four days in advance.
Caramel - Part 3
- 2 1/2 Cups of Sugar
- 3/4 Cups of Water
Add sugar to a heavy duty saucepan and just pour the water over. Drag a spoon through the sugar just to gently mix it and then do not touch it again. Bring the mix to a boil over a medium high heat and wait for it to turn a pale golden brown or amber. Cook it too long and it will burn.
When it turns a nice honey golden color take the pan off the stove and quickly plunge it into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process. After it cools for just a couple of minutes set it on a hot plate and let it cool for just a couple more minutes. You have to work fast. Once the caramel starts to cool - it does not stick well and becomes impossible to work with.
Assemble the profiteroles by using the caramel to glue them together. If you do not have a cone you can make your own as I did. Then add decorations. The traditional decorations include Nougatine (a mixture of almond slices and caramel), white and milk chocolate, spun sugar, fresh fruits dipped in chocolate or sugar, sugared almonds and toffee.
I was thrilled with the results of my Croquembouche but it kicked my butt. I have blisters on my finger tips from caramel, the kitchen was destroyed and I didn't finish until 3:00 a.m. Regardless, if I have a daughter that gets married, I will definitely prepare one for the table!
"The fine arts are five in number: Painting, Music, Poetry, Sculpture, Architecture -- whereof the principal branch is Confectionery." ~Antoinin Carême