Croquembouche is a French dessert of profiteroles (cream puffs) filled with pastry cream and “glued” together with caramel sauce. I know I say a lot of things are really good but this is in the “I hear angels singing” category of food. I have always wanted to make this and over the Christmas holidays I finally had time to attempt it. The recipe consists of three different components: the cream puffs, the pastry cream filling and the caramel sauce. All three need to be made separately so this is a rather time consuming recipe. I got this out of Nigella Lawson’s “Feast” cookbook.
To make the cream puffs you start with butter and water.
This then gets heated up to a galloping boil until all the butter has melted.
At this point a bunch of flour is added in…
and you stir furiously until it comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Then the mixture gets transferred to another bowl and a bunch of eggs are added in. The dough was very stiff at this point and it was rather tiring to mix them in one by one but when I tried using the electric mixer it was too thick and sticky for it to mix properly.
After all the eggs were incorporated I used my piping bag to make little walnut sized mounds on a baking sheet. After I was done I patted down the peaks that were sticking up with moistened fingers so the dough wouldn’t stick.
After they came out of the oven I made a slit in each of them with a knife so that the steam could escape and so that they wouldn’t be soggy.
Next was the pastry cream. I put milk to heat on the stove.
The recipe called for superfine sugar which I finally found in the supermarket after much searching. I don’t know why it is also called fruit powdered sugar as it is unflavoured. Superfine sugar is, as the name says, much smaller in grain size and incorporates much faster and better than regular sugar.
In a bowl I mixed together the superfine sugar, some flour and a lot of egg yolks. Weight friendly, this recipe is not.
Once the milk was hot I added it bit by bit to temper the egg yolks. Basically you raise the temperature of the eggs gradually. I skipped this step once when I was 15 and making a lemon meringue pie and ended up with scrambled eggs; lesson learned. Some steps you just can’t cut out.
Once the eggs had been tempered I dumped everything back into the pan and turned up the heat.
After a few minutes… voila! Pastry cream.
To flavour the pastry cream I made caramel which was super easy. It is just water and sugar put to boil without stirring and taken off the heat when it darkens.
You can see the colour of the pastry cream darken slightly after I poured the caramel in. Some of it got on the whisk. Oops.
I put the pastry cream in the fridge to cool with saran wrap pressed directly on top so it wouldn’t form a skin.
After the pastry cream has cooled completely I filled the profiteroles with my trusty piping bag.
Here is my pile of filled cream puffs. It took me a while to do them all since you have to use a small tip to do it as to not make a huge hole. It’s hard to tell when they’re completely filled so I kept on filling them until the cream started to come out just to make sure.
To make the caramel sauce I used butter, fine sugar and corn syrup. The recipe called for golden syrup but since I only have one tin which I am hoarding like it is liquid gold I used corn syrup. It is rather hard to find in Montreal so I am waiting for a very good occasion to open it up.
Here you see it bubbling away and thickening. When it was the right thickness I took it off the fire.
To assemble the Croquembouche I made one layer then poured on some of the sauce then added a smaller second layer and so on until I had used all the cream puffs. When you do this you have to make sure that you use enough caramel in between each layer so that everything sticks together.
My Croquembouche made more of a mountain than the traditional pyramid shape but boy did it taste amazing. The crispy profiteroles with the silky pastry cream and the oozing caramel are just an amazing combination of flavours and textures. Totally worth the time that it took to make this and a total repeat.