If you haven’t guessed from some the posts that I have done in the past, you can see that I have been challenging myself with baking. Now I am baking at least once a week and I try to bake something new. I watched The Great British Baking show, which you can watch the first season on Netflix. On this show, amateur bakers show what they are made of in the kitchen. It’s an addictive show and inspires you. I get competitive because I want to beat them all and show off my amazing baking skills.
The other show I watched that inspired me to want to outdo the contestants and show myself that I am better than them is Master Chef…Junior. The children on this show range from 8 to 11 years old. I was watching this show when they gave the challenge of making the difficult Croquembouche. Apparently, this is a difficult dessert with making homemade crème puffs and building a little tower using caramel. So I thought if 8 year-olds could do it, I could do it. Not to mention that it is my sisters snd my nieces birthday today and I oh so wish I could give them this to dessert to celebrate!! Happy Birthday Lauren and Gigi!
Croquembouche comes from France and instead of having wedding cakes in France they have Croquembouches. So dramatic. I got my recipe from Williams and Sonoma, they give very clear directions where some of the other recipes I looked up were a little confusing. I got some excellent help from Blondie. I made the pastry crème in advance and whoa nellie, can I just say the pastry crème was delicious. I also improvised and whipped up a cup of whipping crème and folded into the pastry crème. It like made it stupidly good.
In fact, when we weren’t filling the crème puffs we were eating the crème by the spoonful.
The hardest part was making the caramel which is the glue that builds this delicious tower. The caramel was a temperamental little “you know what.” We had to make two batches of it because it burned. Maybe the instructions weren’t that clear about making the caramel. It said to wait until it turned an amber color. Anyway the caramel was the hardest thing to make. Building the tower was easy, well maybe because Blondie actually built it.
Now I didn’t want to make just a croquembouche I wanted to make a Valentine’s Day themed. I brought out my chocolatiering skills and wanted white chocolate pink hearts on it. For this I melted a cup of white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until it melted and added pink food coloring. I then spread it out parchment paper and put it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes until firm. I then took it out and hand cut little hearts after that I put it back in the fridge until I need them when I decorated. Super easy! When decorating I just used melted white chocolate to glue the hearts on my Croquembouche.
Guys let me state this dessert is so so so good. I get why the French have this at their weddings. The only problem is it has a short life shelf and it feeds 8 to 10 people and we only had 3 adults, 1 child and 1 toddler and they say its only good for 4 hours. Overall, it was pretty time consuming and not that hard to make and I’m proud of how it turned out. So take that Master Chef Juniors. Now for my next great bake I will have to deliberate on what it is but if you guys have any suggestions just comment below.
P.S. If you want to skip making homemade crème puffs you can just go to your freezer section and buy them let them defrost and assemble.
For the cream puffs:
- 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) milk
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) water
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g) all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs
For the pastry cream:
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
For the caramel:
- 2 1/2 cups (20 oz./625 g) sugar
- 2/3 cup (5 fl. oz./160 ml) water
Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C).
To make the cream puffs, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt and bring to a full boil. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until blended. Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, forms a ball and leaves a thin film on the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it reads 140°F (60°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk 1 of the eggs. When the batter has cooled, add the egg to the batter and beat with the spoon until incorporated. Continue whisking one egg at a time and then stirring it into the batter until incorporated before adding the next egg. After each egg is added, the mixture will separate and appear shiny but it will return to a smooth paste after you beat it vigorously. Let the paste cool for about 10 minutes before shaping.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
To shape the pastry puffs, fit a pastry bag with a 3/16-inch (4.5-mm) plain tip and fill the bag with the paste. For each puff, pipe about 2 tsp. of the paste onto one of the prepared baking sheets, forming a mound about 1/2 inch (12 mm) in diameter. Space the mounds at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart to allow them room to expand. Smooth the top of each pastry with your finger, dipping your finger in water first to prevent it from sticking to the dough.
Bake the puffs until they are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
The puffs can be made up to 2 weeks before assembling the croquembouche. To store them, transfer the cooled puffs to sealable plastic bags and store in the freezer. Before assembling the croquembouche, warm the puffs in a 325°F (165°C) oven until crisp, then let cool completely on wire racks.
To make the pastry cream, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a boil. Once the milk comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let the vanilla bean steep in the milk for 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and discard.
In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the warm milk to the egg yolk mixture. Add the remaining milk and whisk well. Return the milk and egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of your spoon, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the butter until it is melted and thoroughly combined.
Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The pastry cream will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.
To fill the pastry puffs, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/16-inch (4.5-mm) plain tip with the pastry cream. Using a small knife, poke a hole in each puff just large enough to insert the tip of your pastry bag. Fill each pastry puff with cream and set aside while you make the caramel.
To make the caramel, in a heavy 4-quart (4-l) saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Cook until the mixture bubbles vigorously and begins to turn a light amber color, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir the sugar with a wooden spoon during the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking, but do not stir after this point. Instead, swirl the pan to ensure even cooking. Watch the caramel very carefully, as it will go from amber colored to burned in a few seconds. Remove the caramel from the heat when it is light amber, as it will continue to cook and deepen in color as you assemble the croquembouche.
To assemble the dessert, carefully dip the bottom of a cream puff into the warm caramel, being careful not to burn your fingers. Place the cream puff, caramel side down, along the edge of a 10-inch (25-cm) cake stand. Continue dipping the cream puffs in the caramel and arranging them in a large circle around the edge of the cake plate. Arrange a second circle of cream puffs on top of the first, making the second circle slightly smaller than the first so that you are forming a cone-shaped tower. Continue in this way until the final layer consists of a single puff on top of all the others.
Make spun sugar by warming any remaining caramel over medium-low heat just until it is thin enough to drizzle; watch carefully to avoid burning the caramel. Using a whisk or two forks carefully splatter caramel onto a silicone baking sheet or piece of parchment paper to form thin strands. When the caramel is cool enough to touch but is still warm and flexible, remove the sugar and gently arrange it on top of and around the assembled croquembouche. Serves 8 to 10.