Croquembouche

INGREDIENTS:

Choux Pastry

  • 125ml milk
  • 125ml water
  • 100g butter, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 eggs (medium to large)
  • eggwash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk)

Crème Patissiere

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 40g plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways (or 1 Tbl of vanilla extract)
  • icing sugar or butter

Caramel

  • 2 C caster sugar
  • 1 C water

METHOD:

Choux Pastry

  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C.
  2. Combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and place over a low heat. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Working quickly, shower in the flour and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  4. Return the pan to the stove and stir constantly over a medium heat to cook the flour and dry out the paste for about a minute or two. Tip into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Beat the paste with the wooden spoon for a minute or two to cool it down a bit. Then add eggs one by one, beating after each addition with a wooden spoon. Personally I prefer using an electric hand or stand mixer (it mixes the eggs better than by hand and helps to aerate the mixture so it will puff up better when baked). If you are using an electric mixer, beat the flour paste for a few minutes before adding the eggs to release even more heat from the paste.
  6. Once all the eggs are added and incorporated well into the mixture, the batter should be smooth, shiny and just thick enough to pipe. If you’re not using the choux pastry immediately, brush the surface with an eggwash to prevent a crust forming.
  7. With a piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle, pipe small mounds on a baking pan lined with greaseproof paper in staggered rows. Brush with eggwash and lightly mark the tops with the back of a fork.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until dry and crisp but still soft inside. I like to switch the oven off and leave the profiteroles to sit for a few minutes instead of taking it out straight away where they usually start to deflate. If you wish you could take them out and poke a skewer into the bottoms or sides of the profiteroles to release the steam before returning them to the oven to dry out (make sure it’s turned off).

Crème Patissiere

  1. Combine the egg yolks and a 1/3 of the sugar in a bowl and whisk to a light ribbon consistency. Whisk in the flour thoroughly.
  2. In a pan, heat the milk with the remaining sugar and the vanilla seeds. As soon as it comes to a boil, pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly as you do. Mix well then pour back into the saucepan and return to the heat.
  3. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to bubble, while still stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, then tip into the bowl.
  4. To prevent a skin from forming, dust the surface with a think veil of icing sugar or dot over with little flakes of butter. Alternatively you could also place a sheet of baking paper over the entire surface.
  5. Once cold, you could keep the crème patissiere in the fridge for up to three days. Remove the vanilla pod before using the pastry cream.

Caramel

  1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring slowly to dissolve the sugar and brushing down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Once it has boiled, lower the heat to low and simmer until it’s caramel in colour (do not stir!). When ready remove from the heat and dip the base into a bowl of cold water to stop the caramel from cooking.
  2. To make the toffee base of the croquembouche, grease a cake ring and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Pour enough toffee to coat the base up to 5mm and leave to set. (Since I ws making a mini croquembouche and I didn’t have a small enough cake ring, I chose to skip this step and just formed the croquembouche on a platter).

To assemble

  1. Dip the bases of the profiteroles in the toffee to coat and place upside down on baking paper lined tray.
  2. Dip the side of the profiteroles in toffee and assemble on the toffee base/platter in a mound or cone shape. You’ll have to work as fast as you can before the toffee cools and sets. if it has cooled down to much, place it back on the stove to remelt and heat the toffee.
  3. *Tip* If you get any hot caramel on your hands, DO NOT wipe it otherwise the smear of caramel will just continue to burn your hand. Leave a bowl of cold water aside to plunge your hand or fingers in if you do burn yourself.
  4. Reheat the remaining toffee and with two forks back to back, dip the prongs in the toffee and spin around the Croquembouche to create spun sugar wisps. Alternatively after dipping the forks in the toffee, you could press the forks together and then pull it apart to create toffee strands to wrap around the croquembouche. Decorate with flowers or other decorations if you wish.

Important! You must wait until the caramel is thick enough to get nicely spun sugar. If you do it while it’s too hot, the caramel will just drip too quickly forming ugly beads and uneven strands.

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