Also known as Piece Montee, Croquembouche is a delectable tower of pastry puffs filled with Pastry cream. The pastry cream could be of any flavor. I chose half Vanilla and half chocolate.Croquembouche (Kroh-Kuhm-BOOSH)means 'Crunch in the Mouth'.
The 70 Profiteroles are dipped in caramel that acts as glue and piled up high in the form of a Pyramid.The Caramel is then swirled around the pyramid so as to form a web.
Break the web with the back of a fork, and you can pull a pastry puff off from the "tree"!!
It would look like a Christmas tree, done right! It is not as hard as one might think but a little patience goes a long way in making this divine and ornamental masterpiece.
I have to give credit to my SIL, Siri who wrote 3/4s of the recipe as I was making the tower.!!
For the cream fillings:
1/4-ounce packet unflavored gelatin (2.5 teaspoons)
4 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans
12 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar (fine white variety)
6 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 1.5 bars of Ghiradelli chocolate)
1 tbsp powdered espresso
1.5 cups of heavy cream
For the pastry puffs:
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1.5 tsp of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
Note: Unfilled cups can be frozen for up to a week. To re-crisp, thaw, then brush with a beaten egg. Bake 5 minutes at 350 F.
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1. Prepare the cream fillings: Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water in a bowl and set aside to bloom.
2. Place the milk in a pan. Halve the vanilla beans lengthwise; scrape out the seeds with a paring knife, then add the seeds and pods to the milk. Bring to simmer, then cover and remove from the heat.
3. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
4. Remove the vanilla pods from the milk. Gradually whisk one-third of the warm milk into the egg mixture.
5. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining milk in the pan. Cook cover medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, for about 6 minutes. Continue boiling until the mixture is custard-like, for about 3 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat. Slice the butter into pieces, and whisk into the custard, then stir in the gelatin mixture.
7. Microwave the chocolate until melted, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Mix 2 tbsps hot water with the espresso. Transfer half of the cream filling to a bowl, then stir in the chocolate and espresso.
8. Transfer the remaining cream filling to another bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the chocolate and vanilla creams and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours.
9. When ready to fill the puffs, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with a mixer. Fold half into the vanilla cream filling and half into the chocolate filling.
10. Transfer each filling to a large pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip and set aside. (To do this cleanly, cuff the open end of the pastry bag over your hand).
11. While the fillings chill, make the pastry puffs: Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bring 1.5 cups water, the butter, sugar and salt to a simmer in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring to melt the butter.
12. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste is shiny and pulls away from the pan, 6 to 7 minutes. Cool slightly.
13. Transfer the paste to a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed to cool, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
14. Transfer the dough to a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, dabbing a bit of dough under the corners to keep the paper in place. Pipe 1.5 inch balls of dough onto the paper. (about 48 total).
15. Smooth the dough peaks with a wet finger. Bake until puffed about 20 minutes and lower the temperature of the oven to 350F and bake until golden.
16.Turn off the oven and keep the puffs inside for 10 min.
17.Pierce each puff with a with a piping tip.And then transfer to a rack to cool down
18.Fill 2 pastry bags, one with Vanilla Cream and one with Chocolate cream.Insert the tip into the hole that was pierced and squeeze the cream until full. Fill half the puffs with Vanilla cream and the other half with chocolate cream. Fill all the puffs and refrigerate the puffs until well chilled.
Making the caramel-
-Combine sugar,corn syrup and 1 cup water and bring it to a boil over high heat.Do not stir.
-Then continue boiling until the syrup turns amber in color about 20 min
-Dip the bottom in ice cold water to stop the cooking
-Transfer the caramel into a measuring cup and cool down.Make sure it is still in a liquid state while it is cooled down
-Draw a 7 inch circle on a parchment paper with a pencil.Turn around the paper so that you can still see the circle but the pencil does not impart marks on the puffs
-Quickly dip each puff in the caramel and place them on the circle. Place more puffs on the circle as it builds a stable base.
-When the caramel hardens, melt it in the microwave
-Continue building the conical tower and top the tower with a single puff
- Place more parchment paper on the sides. The final step will be messy. Once the last step is done, you can take out the parchment paper
-Dip the tip of the fork in the caramel and quickly turn it around the Croquembouche in circles.It should be thready as you are doing it. But once it cools down, it hardens.
-Once you get the hang of it, you don't want to stop this. Atleast I did not want to.
-Do this to your heart's content:-)
- Once you are ready to eat, crack the tower with the back of a fork.