Croquembouche is an impressive tower of small cream puffs and caramelized sugar that’s well worth the effort to create it. Be sure to start the dessert well in advance, taking advantage of all the useful do-aheads. Last minute assembly is a must for the caramelized sugar so allow several hours and have all ingredients ready.
- 3 Cups water
- 1 1/2 Cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 large eggs
- 4 to 5 Cups sugar
- 1 to 1 1/4 Cups corn syrup
- 1 to 1 1/4 Cups water
- 4 Cups whipping cream
- 3 Cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 16 egg yolks
- 2 Cups sugar
- 1 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Bring water and butter to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt all at once and stir until mixture pulls away from sides forming mass, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to heavy duty mixer fitted with wire beater.
- With mixer running at medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic and let stand until cool.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon half of dough into large pastry bag fitted with plain 1/2-inch round tip.
- Pipe 3/4 to 1-inch mounds onto baking sheets, spacing apart. Press peaks down onto mounds using moistened fingertip. Bake until golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. Turn off oven. Pierce side of each puff with small sharp knife or a toothpick to allow steam to escape. Return puff to oven for 10 minutes to dry interior. Repeat with remaining pastry. (Puffs can be prepared ahead. Store in freezer bags at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.
- If frozen, thaw carefully in single layer on paper towel lined baking sheets to avoid any moist spots.)
- Bring cream, milk and vanilla bean to boil in heavy large saucepan. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, flour and salt to blend in large bowl. Gradually beat in hot cream mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and whisk over medium heat until mixture becomes very thick and boils.
- Transfer to bowl and remove vanilla bean. Cool completely, stirring occasionally. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled. (Can be made up to 4 days ahead.)
- Spoon some of pastry cream into pastry bag fitted with plain 1/4-inch tip. Insert tip into score on each puff and fill with cream. Repeat until all puffs are filled.
- Select a croquembouche pastry cone available at pastry supply stores (see picture below) for assembly of cream-puff balls into a croquembouche pyramid.
- Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan.
- Boil without stirring until mixture turns amber in color, brushing down any crystals that form on sides of pan with moist pastry brush, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and place on cold surface to stop cooking.
- Using tongs, carefully dip cream puff into caramel and place around base of cone. Repeat dipping and placing puffs on cone's surface fitting puffs evenly onto sides. forming concentric circles until caramel is used.
- If caramel begins to harden, reheat briefly over medium heat to liquefy. Croquembouche will hold up several hours at room temperature. Serve by cracking caramel with back of sharp knife and removing individual cream puffs.
The croquembouche is often the dessert at a French wedding or christening. It features profiteroles (small creampuffs).
Profiteroles are filled with pastry cream (creme patissiere) and held together with a delicate cobweb of caramel to form a breathtaking centerpiece.
The basic process is to prepare caramel syrup, coat the puffs with some of the syrup and then arrange them to form a pyramid.
It is then decorated with "angel hair" spun from the same caramel syrup. Although traditionally decorated with sugared almonds, the croquembouche also looks stunning with tiny fresh flowers, a drizzle of dark chocolate, or a web of spun sugar.
The croquembouche is transportable and does not need refrigeration.