It has been many years since I made croquembouche. I made it for a Christmas party when my children were small, and they were so delighted with the beautiful caramel and cream puff structure. It was tall and glistening with caramel, and almost looked like the beautiful Christmas trees that you see in lit up Rockafeller Center in New York.
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. The individual parts of this elegant dessert are not hard to make. It starts with pate a choux, an easy dough for the puffs, which are filled with pastry cream, and the caramel both holds it together and acts as a delicate, elegant, decoration. Mini Me made the cream puffs and Mimi Jr. made the pastry cream and together we assembled our tower. Good team work made this go really fast! Although I have used other recipes for both the cream puffs and pastry cream in the past, this time we used both the recipes as given from the Daring Bakers fourm and they worked out nicely. Although the puffs and pastry cream can be made a day ahead, this dessert is best eaten within a few hours of construction so the puffs don't get soggy. Lucky for me, the eating part is never a problem in our house and it disappeared pretty fast.
Pate a Choux
(Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Vanilla Crème Patissiere
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
4. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
We divided our pastry cream in half and to one part added extra vanilla and to the other the zest of 2 oranges for a delicate orange flavor. To each we folded in about 2/3 cup whipped cream, to give us a light creamy filling.
Our cream puffs were light and crispy with just a hint of sweetness. The orange filling with the caramel was a really good combination that I would definitely use again. There are endless combintaion to use for filling and decorations which makes this a good dessert to try again and again, making it different each time. If you want to see what the other Daring Bakers made visit our blog roll.