Take a chance. Try something new and difficult. That’s my lesson for the day! I recently started the “100 Happy Days Challenge” on Instagram, and I’m trying to do things that I’ve been putting off due to lack of time and energy, or purely because fear of failure. One such project is making a Croquembouche. What is that? It’s a tower of cream puffs wrapped in a cage made of spun sugar. Every component of this dessert was new to me, and (in my mind, at least) difficult to make. Of course, given the right amount of time, patience, and guidance from Food 52, nothing is impossible!
The first step is to make the pastry cream. You need very basic ingredients for this: egg yolks, whole milk, butter, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla. All things you have in your kitchen, I’m sure. It’s so simple, but so versatile! You can use the pastry cream to fill cakes, eclairs, tarts, and more.
Next, the pate choux, or choux pastry. Easy peasy! Just follow the instructions in the recipe below, and pipe 1 inch rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes at 375 degrees. Once cooled, fill the puffs with pastry cream, and set aside.
To make the caramel, heat up sugar and water until it becomes a very pale amber. Use this as glue to stick together the cream puffs, and build a tower. For the sugar cage, grab yourself a fork, dip it in the caramel, and twirl all over the tower. Keep doing this until you are satisfied with the way the croquembouche looks.
It honestly appears so much more difficult that it is, and by the time you’re done, you’ll feel like a professional pastry chef!
Enjoy your weekend,
Recipe adapted from: http://food52.com/recipes/25406-croquembouche
- 1/2cup water
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2+ 2 tbsp flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/8 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- On medium-high heat bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer. When the butter has completely melted, add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. With every bit of elbow grease you can muster, continue mixing for 4 minutes. A mass of dough will form and it will begin to come away from the sides and bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and transfer dough to a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each is consumed by the dough before you add the next. You can also leave it in the pot and mix by hand.
- Cool for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam. When cool enough to handle, transfer into a piping bag. Pipe out 1-inch rounds. Smooth out any pointy peaks by dipping your finger in water and gently pressing them out; this will ensure an even bake. Bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Allow them to cool then fill them with pastry cream.
- For the pastry cream: In a small heavy-bottomed pot, warm the milk gently to a simmer. If you want to flavor your pastry cream, do so now: You can use vanilla, lavender, or even a chai tea bag. Allow a half hour for the flavors to mature, and then reheat back to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, mix the sugar, salt, yolks, and cornstarch together in a bowl. Temper by adding half of the hot milk into eggs, whisking feverishly. Add the egg mixture back to the milk and stir constantly with a wooden spoon on medium high heat until it coats the back of the spoon. Immediately transfer to a bowl and stir a couple minutes to cool down, then add the butter and mix well. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream so as not to create a skin. Chill until completely cooled.
- Transfer to a piping bag, poke each cream puff gently with the tip of the bag, and fill.
- For caramel, place 1/3 cups of sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a pan, stir to combine, and cover. Cook over medium-high for about 15 minutes, until the caramel is a light amber.
- With tongs, gently dip each cream puff into the caramel and begin to start stacking your croquembouche. Make sure your base is sturdy and continue upwards. Once you are done mounting reheat, your caramel until it turns a darker shade of amber. Allow to cool for a few minutes until it resembles the constituency of honey, then with a spoon drizzle it about, try to get thin stings of the caramel to wrap around. I also drizzled some ganache over everything and dusted it with powdered sugar.
- Eat within 2 to 3 hours, as the caramel will start to soften