To get an idea what a croquembouche is, google images gives a good clue.
But I did kick off preparations in the evening before by making half a batch of the recipe in my Cordon Bleu book, where I first discovered the croquembouche. The recipe said to make 100 choux buns, but counting the buns used in the picture, they seem to have used about 66, so I thought half a batch would suffice.
And it did, I got 60 buns out of it. The recipe is slightly different to what I did a couple of years ago for the Daring Bakers. However, I swapped out the water for milk.
2.4 dl milk
120 g unsalted butter
0.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2.4 dl flour
5 large eggs
- Bring the milk and butter to the boil on medium-low heat.
- In the mean time, sift together salt, sugar and flour.
- In a separate bowl, break 4 of the eggs and whisk lightly.
- In a glass, break the fifth egg, add a pinch of salt and whisk together. This will be used for the glaze.
- When the liquid is boiling, remove from the heat and whisk in the flour mixture. I found a wooden spoon worked better than the electric whisk.
- When the dough has come together, put on the hob again, stirring to get it to dry out a bit and become smooth.
- Remove from the heat once more and slowly add the whisked up four eggs, a little at the time and making sure they are completely incorporated before adding more. 4 or 5 installments should do.
- Place some baking paper onto a couple of baking sheets and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C (I used the fan function, so baked at 185 degrees C).
- Pipe with a straight wide nozzle onto the baking paper, blobs about the size of walnuts. Leave quite a bit of space in between, because they will swell do double size.
- Glaze with the fifth egg and a brush, then dip a fork in the remaining egg wash and flatten the choux buns.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the buns are golden brown and have puffed up. Swap or turn the baking trays if they are baking unevenly and don't worry if they seem to collapse from this treatment.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack, then use or store in an airtight box (they will go a bit soft then).
For the cream filling, I couldn't be bothered to do the suggested mousseline cream, so used one of my Mum's pudding powder packets. This is basically corn flour with some flavourings and one packet resulted in almost 1 litre of pudding. I opted for the vanilla flavoured one and it was to be stirred into 100 ml of cold milk, while another 600 ml milk and 1.5 dl sugar were brought to the boil. After that the dissolved powder was to be whisked into the boiling milk and the whole lot be allowed to heat up until it bubbled again and began to thicken. After this, I kept stirring it to cool it down a little bit, then added the remainder of the egg wash as well and whisked it in. To prevent skin forming, I covered the surface with cling film and allowed it to cool down completely.
On the day of the celebrations, I made a hole in at the bottom of each choux bun and by this time they had all gone soft. I then whisked up the pudding cream to loosen it up and remove any lumps and using a fine straight nozzle, I piped it into the hole of each choux. Most did have a hole in the middle and it was great to see how they filled up. A few didn't, but I tried to get in at least a little of the cream.
Then I moved onto the caramel - I melted 5 dl of granulated sugar with 1 dl of water. This was fine. I then should have added 1 dl of glucose, but I didn't have that so used light syrup instead. This is the Swedish artificially made syrup which is pretty close to glucose. But using the light one, this tinted everything a bit so I wasn't too sure when it had reached the caramel temperature.
For the mould, I decided to go for the option of constructing the croquembouche on the inside of it as I'd seen recommended on youtube and twisted together a plastic place mat into a funnel and lined it with aluminium foil. The book recommends lining a cone on the outside with foil and then building the pyramid on the outside.
I removed the melted sugar off the heat and started dipping the choux and gluing them together inside the funnel. This step worked pretty well and I didn't burn myself on the melted sugar. I'd used 35 buns when the funnel was full, so I thought that'll do and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit.
With the remaining 25 buns, I dipped the tops into the melted sugar and dipped in either pearl sugar, daim bits or edible pink hearts which I'd purchased especially along with edible gold dust to decorate the croquembouche.
I couldn't resist eating one at this point and this is also when I realised that after all these years of cooking, I still can't make caramel. Ho hum, let's hope the thing in the fridge firms up anyway.
So we had dinner, Dad opened a nice wine and there was much merriment and then time came to the dessert. The sparkling wine was opened, I took out the croquembouche mould out of the fridge and saw that it had collapsed inside already. Oh, dear! Further unravelling of the funnel resulted in this:
But as Lundulph said on the phone, the good thing is that even if the croquembouche doesn't work out, it'll still be a very tasty mess. And it was. Despite eating a decent dinner beforehand, we still managed to put away most of the little choux. I think there were about 15 left.
The pudding cream was far too much as well, I had about 4 dl left, which I transferred to some nice glasses and sprinkled some daim bits on. My Dad likes pudding, so I'm pretty sure they'll be gone by the time I go back to Sweden.
I showed the photo in the book to everyone. My Mum suggested we try the croquembouche again for her birthday in a few weeks. She'll help then and I'll make sure to get both glucose and a sugar thermometer.
Besides I got to use two of my Mum's paper doilies, they've been at the bottom of the cupboard since the mid-eighties at the very least. The price tag indicated a ridiculously low price from a shop that hasn't existed for a very long time.