posted by Lisa UK 02-27-100 1:56 PM


1 to 2 days ahead:
Make creampuffs and freeze.
Make foil cone (centre base for pyramid).

2 days to 2 hours ahead:
Make crème patissière.

Same day (2-4 hours before serving):
Assemble croquembouche:
1) Fill cream puffs with crème patissière
2) Prepare melted sugar (2 sauce pans)
3) Dip cream puffs in melted sugar (caramel)
4) Assemble cream puffs around foil cone
5) Spin remaining cooked sugar over croquembouche

Tips: Always work with a bowl of cold water and a cold wet cloth to wipe sugar drips. In the event that you do touch the hot sugar, immediately dip your hands in the cold water. Do not rub them.

After pastry is complete, sugar coated pots can be easily cleaned by first filling them with water and then placing on a medium high burner. Allow water to boil out the candied sugar.

An alternative way to proceed with this dessert is to fill the puffs with vanilla ice cream pouring warm chocolate sundae sauce over the puffs (this also acts as the "glue").

Basic cream puff dough or 'choux' pastry: This recipe makes about 1 pound of choux pastry (3-4 dozen puffs). If you are a novice, you might consider making one batch just to practice on. Make some puffs using a #4 tip and some using a #5 plain pastry tip. Larger puffs form the base of the pastry. The smaller ones are used towards the top to achieve the conical effect.

1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter or shortening
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets or line with cooking parchment.

In a medium saucepan, combine water and butter and heat over medium heat to melt butter. Once it is melted, bring water to a full boil and immediately stir in salt, sugar, and flour.

Stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is blended and leaves the sides of the pot in a round mass. Shuffle the pot briefly on the burner to dry out the dough. Remove from heat and place dough in a large bowl (if mixing by hand) or in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let cool about 10 minutes.

Then, with mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Mixture should look smooth and glossy after the last egg is blended in.

Spoon the pâte a choux into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe out mounds of dough, about 3/4 inch in diameter. Use a blunt knife dipped in water to separate dough from tip.

Bake until golden brown, about 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and slit each creampuff slightly on one side. Replace cookie sheets in oven to dry inside of pastries. Remove from oven and let cool in a draft-free place. Proceed with recipe or freeze for later use. Makes 3-4 dozen small puffs.

Crème patissière: This classic French custard can be flavored with vanilla, rum, or kirsch. It can be made up to two days ahead or one hour before needed.

1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup flour
pinch salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix half the sugar, egg yolks, flour, salt, and 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl and mix well to blend.

In a medium saucepan, heat the rest of the milk and sugar together. As it comes to a boil, whisk in the egg yolk mixture. Let the mixture resume boiling, blending well with a whisk to make sure bottom does not burn.

As mixture thickens, remove from heat. Let stand 2-3 minutes, then stir in vanilla. Cool, then cover tightly with plastic wrap (the wrap should lie right on the surface of the custard: this prevents a "skin" from forming) and store in refrigerator until needed.

Blend well with wooden spoon before using. Depending on size of puffs or how much filing is used, recipe may have to be repeated.

Caramel and assembly: It is advisable to prepare two pots of caramelized sugar. As one becomes ready, place the second pot on the heat to begin melting.

Always work with a bowl of cold water to dip your hands into in any of any sugar drips. Cooking sugar to the caramel stage takes about 12-17 minutes depending on the heat of the burner.

2 1/2 cups white sugar
water to moisten sugar (about 1/4 cup)

For croquembouche stand, create an 18 inch foil cone. Turn up ends to allow cone to stand upright. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, pour sugar and wet with a small amount of water. Over medium heat, let the sugar warm, and begin to dissolve. Allow sugar and water to gently boil until the sugar begins to change colour. During this time, brush the inner sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to prevent any build-up of sugar crystals.

As soon as the sugar begins to change colour (this is 'hard crack' stage and occurs at 300-310 F.), remove from stove and place on a heatproof surface (an oven mitt can be used) near your work area. (At this point you can start another pot of sugar going).

Dip the top of each cream puff in the hot caramel. When ready to assemble croquembouche (cream puffs have only their tops dipped at this point) dip one side of each creampuff and place around base of the foil cone (you can usually get six puffs around the base - this is your first row). The sugar will harden and act as the 'glue'.

Continue creating tiers of creampuffs, saving smaller puffs for the top. Once the pyramid structure is complete, dip a whisk or fork in the remaining caramel. In a circular motion, trail threads of caramel over the top and down the sides of the croquembouche. Have fun with it. Give it your own 'spin'.

Store in a cool, dry place until ready to serve. Since custard is involved, it is not advisable to store more than 2-3 hours before serving.

Note: The sauce that holds the wedding cake together is a caramel sauce - very sticky so as to hold the individual choux buns together.

The chocolate sauce mentioned before is only used for individual profiteroles that don't need to be stuck together. That is usually just dark/semisweet chocolate melted together with butter to give it a high gloss sheen.

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