29 December 2010


For my parents' 40th wedding anniversary the other day, I'd decided to make a croquembouche. What I've managed to find out is that this fantastic creation is traditional in French weddings, so it would be very suitable for a ruby wedding. I did toy with the idea of a dress rehearsal, but decided against it, after all, I'd have to blog about it in advance and also living at my parents' place at the moment, that would really spoil the surprise.

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

  1. Bring the milk and butter to the boil on medium-low heat.

  2. In the mean time, sift together salt, sugar and flour.

  3. In a separate bowl, break 4 of the eggs and whisk lightly.

  4. In a glass, break the fifth egg, add a pinch of salt and whisk together. This will be used for the glaze.

  5. 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.

  6. When the dough has come together, put on the hob again, stirring to get it to dry out a bit and become smooth.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. Glaze with the fifth egg and a brush, then dip a fork in the remaining egg wash and flatten the choux buns.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

25 December 2010

I'll Have A Blue Christmas...

...without Lundulph.

Sadly due to the severe weather that has been raging all over Europe, Lundulph was unable to join me in Stockholm for the Christmas holidays, instead we're each celebrating with our respective families.

Thus the lack of a new Christmas Bird with all the trimmings.

We aim to try and catch up over New Year next week, but it won't be quite the same and so this year's well-laid plans are pushed on to next year.

4 December 2010

Pork Bourguignon

To celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday, I decided to make Boeuf Bourguignon, after recently having watched the Julie & Julia movie.


As I started to put together a shopping list, Mum volunteered a large piece of meat, which I accepted, along with a novelty wine from Italy that she'd bought because the bottle was in the shape of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As it turned out, the piece of meat was pork and the wine was a Sicilian wine "typical for the region". Yeah, definitely for cooking.


I also went a bit lazy and didn't get shallots, but opted for regular onions and used canned button mushrooms instead of fresh ones.

Further changes were that I had to transfer things between a casserole dish that could go on the hob and a gyuvetch (crockery pot) that goes in the oven. This palaver due to not having a pot that does both. I also prepared the dish up to the slow cooking point last night and finished it this morning.



1.2 kg blade pork/spare rib roast
170 g smoked and diced bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium sized carrots
1 largeish onion
1 tsp salt
0.25 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp flour
750 ml red wine
2 - 3 dl beef stock
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 cloves of garlic
0.5 tsp dried thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf

1 can of whole button mushrooms (400 g) along with the liquid
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 largeish onions
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
a bouquet garni made of 4 sprigs parsley, 0.5 bay leaf and 0.25 tsp dried thyme tied in a double layer of cheese cloth
225 g of parboiled girolles
sprigs of parsley for decoration


  1. Pre-heat the oven along with the gyuvetch, so that it doesn't crack from a sudden temperature change. This is done slowly and in increments up to 230 degrees C.

  2. In the mean time, trim off the fat from the pork as much as possible and cut into 5 cm chunks. Then dry each piece with a paper towel.

  3. Peel the carrots and onion and slice them.

  4. Then heat up the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan on medium and sauté the bacon for 3 - 4 minutes, then remove from the pan and place in the guyvetch in the oven.

  5. Turn up the heat until it starts smoking, then brown the pork pieces all around. Do this in several batches, making sure they aren't crowded in the pan. Remove each batch to the guyvetch.

  6. Turn down the heat a little, then add the carrots and onion and brown them for a few minutes until the onions go soft and translucent. Stir so nothing sticks and burns. Finally take the guyvetch out of the oven and transfer the carrots and onion there as well.

  7. Then season and sprinkle the flour all over, stir around to get the meat coated and place the guyvetch in the oven for 4 - 5 minutes uncovered. Then take out, stir again and return for a further 4 - 5 minutes. This will brown the flour a bit.

  8. Turn down the oven to 165 degrees C, take out the guyvetch and transfer it's contents back to the deep frying pan. Replace the guyvetch in the oven to keep it warm for later.

  9. Pour the wine over the meat and top up with beef stock, so that the liquid barely covers it.

  10. Add the tomato paste, peel and press in the garlic, sprinkle the thyme and crumble the bay leaf. Stir well and bring to a simmer on the hob.

  11. Return everything to the gyuvetch, cover and let simmer in the oven for 2 h. Check that the meat is done by piercing it with a fork.

  12. While the casserole is baking, drain the canned mushrooms, but save the liquid.

  13. Heat up the butter and oil to the point when the bubbles begin to subside, then add the mushrooms and sauté them for a couple of minutes until they get lightly browned. Again do this in batches so they don't over-crowd. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  14. Peel and cut the onions into 2 - 3 cm chunks. Then add to the fat from the mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes, while stirring carefully so they don't disintegrate.

  15. Add about 1.2 dl of the mushroom liquid and the bouquet garni, cover and let simmer for 35 - 40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  16. Discard the bouquet garni and set aside until needed.

  17. When the 2 h are up, check the meat, if it's tender, add the sautéed mushrooms and onions. Also add any left-over mushroom liquid and the parboiled girolles and stir through to make the ingredients mix, then give the stew another 15 - 20 minutes, or if not serving straight away, turn down to about 80 degrees to keep warm.

  18. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes and decorate with sprigs of parsley.

It does sound like a lot of effort, but that's mainly due to having to switch between casserole dishes.

But thinking about my random results for guyvetch stew, I think drying the meat before browning it and also coating with flour and baking to brown it might make a difference and I must remember that next time. Along with pre-frying the vegetables as well.

In hindsight, I should have got shallots, they look so much more attractive than chunks of regular onion. Sautéing the mushrooms and onions like that was interesting as well and according to Julia Child, they can be served as is.

I did manage to burn the onions a bit during the sauté, but not too bad.


Since my Mum mentioned that she doesn't do mashed potatoes, I opted for that, rather than just boiling them. Besides, Delia's perfect mashed potatoes are just too tasty.

We had a great dinner, the stew smelt and tasted wonderful, the meat was tender, the sauce was of perfect thickness and everyone had seconds. Lundulph could sadly not participate in the birthday celebrations, his flight got cancelled due to the severe weather that's hit the UK over the past couple of days, so I'll have to do this dish for him especially sometime soon. And then with shallots and fresh button mushrooms.

A note on the meat. A quick search on wikipedia reveals that pork is cut differently in the UK and Sweden. The piece I used was called "karré" and there is no direct cut that corresponds to it. Google translates it as loin, but that's not entirely correct, the loin is towards the back of the animal, whereas the "karré" seems to correspond to the shoulder, which was termed as the spare rib steak and blade.

Of course being a birthday celebration, we finished off with a lovely cake, made by my Mum.


Though we skipped the candles, and as my Gran said, 90 candles would have blown it up.