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Croquembouche: Tips & Techniques

French

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91 replies to this topic

#61 Patrick S

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 06:53 AM

Thanks for the help - I'll be making a larger batch of caramel next time, so hopefully it will stay warmer longer. Would putting the bowl over a heat source (like a fondue pot) work, or will that be too much and darken the sugar?

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The caramel will only get darker if you get it hotter than you did when you caramelized it. You should be able to keep the caramel at 300F for a long time with no problems. But you may not need to keep it that hot -- I would experiment with some puffs. Dip it, see if you have enough caramel adhering to the puff. If not, let the caramel cool a little and try again.
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#62 miladyinsanity

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 10:31 AM

Yep, it was the weather that made it tacky. I could go on and on about sugar, its hygroscopic properties etc but instead I'll just say I did something really stupid with caramel day before last so I know from experience.
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#63 StephMac

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 01:04 PM

Patrick, I'll shoot for that magic 300 degrees and see what happens. Thanks for the specific number, it helps a lot.

Hygroscopic! That's the word I was looking for (I knew hydroscopic wasn't quite right). Considering it could be similar weather onditions on the day of the wedding, at least I know what to expect. I was glad to see that the croquembouche held its structure and didn't melt into a puddle of puffs, though.

Sorry to hear about your bad caramel day, though :sad:

#64 onetoughcookie

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 04:22 PM

Thanks for the help - I'll be making a larger batch of caramel next time, so hopefully it will stay warmer longer. Would putting the bowl over a heat source (like a fondue pot) work, or will that be too much and darken the sugar?

Tongs! That makes sense for serving. I'm going to go look for a sturdy pair...

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A heating pad might work to keep the caramel hot, but not cook it longer.
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#65 Patrick S

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 01:09 PM

Are there heating pads that can keep caramel that hot? You dont mean the type of heating pads you would use for a sore neck, do you? They wouldnt generate nearly enough heat to keep the caramel fluid. A stove burner, which you're likely to be making the caramel on anyway, would work just fine.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi

#66 onetoughcookie

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 06:00 PM

Are there heating pads that can keep caramel that hot? You dont mean the type of heating pads you would use for a sore neck, do you? They wouldnt generate nearly enough heat to keep the caramel fluid. A stove burner, which you're likely to be making the caramel on anyway, would work just fine.

We were taught in school that a regular heating pad might keep the pan at the proper temperature longer, without really cooking it. It would act as insulation.
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#67 Fibilou

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:31 AM

I want to make an elaborate piece montee based on croquembouche for my upcoming wedding, not to eat but as a centrepiece. As long as I dry out the choux well, how long would the entire thing last ? I would ideally like to construct it the week before and keep in a box with dessicant. I have only made them before for other people, making croquembouche probably not a good thing on my wedding morning !
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#68 K8memphis

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:46 AM

Pate choux lasts pretty well. It depends on what you glue them with too. I mean you could use hot glue even if you're not going to eat it. Would not absorb any moisture anyway. Or you could maybe use royal icing. Wonder how piping gel would do for glue.

But you don't want to hollow them out of course either. But I just wonder about the weight. While they totally can last for weeks, I've never stacked them up so I'm not sure if/how they will hold thier weight. Y'know depending on how big they are. Smaller sized ones seems like it would be better huh, structure wise.

Hmm, you might need to do a trial run.

#69 K8memphis

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:49 AM

You could 'enhance' your design and use a cone shape to affix them to. This would be pretty sure fire depending on your glue. I know people that have done that with regular croquembouche's.

Just some croqueboo thoughts pour vous....

#70 nichi

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 10:05 AM

Cone center with caramelized sugar glue... that baby ain't going anywhere for a long long time. I remember even trashing one and it just stayed together after we threw it into the garbage.

#71 artisanbaker

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 08:38 AM

use isomalt...

#72 gfron1

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 09:36 AM

Patrick A and I are going to get started on one this week - we're going for size since it will be a store display piece. We want to sell it right before Christmas - obviously for looks not eats. We're in a very dry climate so humidity won't be an issue. Can this sucker last a month or do we need to spray with some toxic chemical coating like polyurethane?

We'll be sure to post pics of whatever we end up with since we want to play with a few decorative ideas - spun sugar, spray painted white chocolate snow, and if we have time pulled sugar red chiles.

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#73 alanamoana

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:38 AM

i think it could easily last a month in your climate rob. as isomalt doesn't caramelize the same way that sugar does, you'll have to do some of it in real sugar for the look. but for the pulled sugar chiles, i'd use colored isomalt or something like that for longevity.

there is a product out there for sugar pieces, a lacquer of some sort. definitely not edible, but not as bad as polyurethane...pcb carries it but i'm not sure you even need to worry about that. unless you have a bug problem :blink:

to be safe, i'd also probably shape it over a cardboard cone/mold and keep it on there (making sure to decorate to hide the cone). that way, you can make it fairly big without worrying too much about structural soundness and sugar dissolving issues.

edited to add: the mold will also help with structure since you won't be filling the choux

Edited by alanamoana, 13 November 2007 - 12:40 AM.


#74 gfron1

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 08:55 PM

600 puffs and a week later, Patrick A and I have the tree assembled. We couldn't get our sugar to look as nice as Tri2Cook but did come up with a cool little tree topper star using our dipped puffs. We also took T2C's idea and dipped cranberries and yellow raisins in the sugar for ornaments. Patrick is now working on the southwest themed gingerbread village that will go around the tree. Our unveiling will be next week.

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#75 Pam R

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 09:15 PM

Rob, I'm assuming there will be pictures. Thanks!

#76 gfron1

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 06:08 PM

But of course! :biggrin: Patrick A and I just pulled out the Wagner PowerPainter again...its looking good!

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#77 Patrick A.

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 09:36 AM

I'll be adding a few pictures once i get them on the computer of gfron1 and me spray painting our croquembouche. it came out really great. :biggrin:

#78 dejaq

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 05:23 PM

A technique I found useful is to add a touch of cocoa butter at the end of the caramel cooking stage desired. This not only helps with a higher gloss but acts a humidity buffer in case there is any moisture in the air. It procuces a "dry" "crisp" caramel less likely to soften.


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#79 gfron1

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 07:25 AM

Here it is. Learned a lot with this one starting with the importance of uniform size puffs. We just kept adding decorations until you couldn't see the mistakes anymore :rolleyes: We docorated with wreaths, red chiles, garland, and some French candied violets. The topper is 5 nutmegs dipped in sugar then attached. We don't have access to cocoa butter here in town (except sometimes as hand cream) so we couldn't do his trick, so if it gets humid we'll be pulling the star off. You can see more of Patrick A's gingerbread village in the gingerbread topic.
Edited to add: We also brought out the Wagner Power Painter again for a gentle dusting of royal icing snow. And this was 470 puffs and just over 3 feet tall.
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#80 Tri2Cook

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 08:09 AM

That's awesome! I'm loving those chile ornaments. I went to the gingerbread topic and took a peek at the village as well. They'll be fighting over this when the "for sale" sign goes up.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#81 Mike B4

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 12:23 PM

Very cool ohhhh I have to try one. Any tips you want to pass along for a first timer.

Mike

#82 gfron1

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 12:53 PM

3 tips from a non-expert, but 'fresh in my mind' maker...

1. Make the balls as uniform as is humanly possible
2. If its not to be eaten (display) just avoid caramelized sugar altogether (although we didn't have the chance to dry Dejaq's suggestion above) - we glued with royal icing
3. Have an intern (Patrick A :wink: ) to do all the pate choux making!

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#83 gfron1

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 03:42 PM

Pic coming soon...

The croq that we made was auctioned off as a fund raiser for PatrickA's high school culinary program. It raised $250 when two doctors decided to bid against each other. This morning we were preparing to deliver it, and moved it from its higher display shelf to a lower counter. A few balls fell off - no big deal, but right as I was about to set it on the counter it tilted just enough and broke into a zillion pieces! It was right out of Food Network.

The winning doc was gracious enough to give the money anyway, and we had made a fresh one for him to enjoy - which softened the blow.

I'll have to learn more about royal icing since it seemed like it dried out and become too fragile. Anyway, its been fun...but done with this for a long time.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#84 Tri2Cook

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 04:38 PM

Sorry to hear about the crash Rob. Glad to hear the buyer was cool about it, especially since it was for a good cause. You guys did an awesome job.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#85 gfron1

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 07:09 PM

For your etification...

The destroyed croq:
Posted Image
Patrick's face says it all.

And here's the mini croq that we took to the winning bidder:
Posted Image

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#86 Mel Z

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 09:58 PM

I did my first "real" croque this past weekend...I had made a mini one before with maybe 20 puffs, and decided it was time to go full-sized. Heeding others' comments about dipped faces being too much caramelized sugar, I opted for dripping some down the sides, a molten river from the top. I think it just ended up looking sloppy and will keep it on the inside next time!

Lessons learned:
-Avoid the caramel drip
-Even-sized and -shaped puffs are crucial (note the gaping holes)
-Have a plan of how many you'll need (I had one puff left over, meaning I couldn't select for uniform shape)
-Once the caramel starts to soften, there's no saving it. I had tried to time it for serving but the hosts decided to serve an hour later, and it was heavily tilting by that time...and any attempts to straighten the croque just dislodged more puffs!
-The "two fork" technique for wrapping spun sugar around it worked really well
-Forming by hand (without a cone) is not as hard as it appears

Without further ado, the pictures...I added more spun sugar closer to serving time, but didn't grab a photo.

croque full.jpg
croque closeup.jpg

Any additional insights would be most welcome (especially on how to make the photo not sideways)!

#87 LindaK

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 05:14 PM

Mel, congratulations, that's impressive. It looks beautiful, I don't see those big gaping holes at all.

I've always wondered how you serve one of these. Between the caramel and spun sugar, I can't picture it. Or is it meant to be admired and not eaten?


 


#88 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 05:37 PM

I've always wondered how you serve one of these. Between the caramel and spun sugar, I can't picture it. Or is it meant to be admired and not eaten?


Traditionally, once it's been thoroughly admired, you eventually have to disassemble it with a knife and serve a few choux/puffs by plate.

And it's delicious so it would be a shame not to eat it.

#89 Mel Z

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 10:38 PM

It also depends on the humidity of where you're serving...the caramelized sugar becomes tacky and less structural as it's exposed to moisture in the air, so if you assemble it several hours in advance, one can pull pieces off with reasonable grace.

#90 janeer

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 06:36 PM

It also depends on the humidity of where you're serving...the caramelized sugar becomes tacky and less structural as it's exposed to moisture in the air, so if you assemble it several hours in advance, one can pull pieces off with reasonable grace.

Whenever I've served it we just pull pieces off by hand--great for a cocktail party/finger food buffet.





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