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Croquembouche: Tips & Techniques


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The correct spelling is Croquembouche. I believe an accurate translation is either "crisp in the mouth" or “crunch in the mouth.” According to Alice Wooledge Salmon, the croquembouche’s development was advanced particularly by Jules Gouffe, one of Câreme’s disciples.

Years ago, I had a tinsmith construct a 12" conical mold – but have used it infrequently. (Everytime I look at the thing, I regard it as either a plugged megaphone or a dunce’s cap!) The appearance of this topic-thread has inspired me to consider preparing one for New Year's Day. NB: If you’re using a mold, make sure to oil the inside very thoroughly with a bland oil.

Since I have had no reason to make a large presentation of this confection, I pipe out 1" mounds of the choux paste about 2" apart on an air-layer sheet; then brush them with an egg glaze before baking. After baking, the centers are scooped out and filled with crème mousseline or crème pâtissière (crème St. Honoré).

If you don’t have the conical mold, the croquembouche can be shaped successfully as a free-form pyramid. When it’s time to assemble the puffs, I dip the base of each one in the caramel and stick them to each other in a circle on the metal serving platter. When the bottom row is finished, I dip more puffs on their sides and bases, and build a second row on top, angled slightly inwards. I continue upwards until a tall cone is achieved. (If the caramel gets too cool & sticky, I return it to the heat until it reaches the right consistency.)

Using a fork, I make a final decoration of thin spun-sugar strands around & around the croquembouche until the buns are encased.

I would not venture to make a croquembouche during the summer. Moreover, it is a pastry that must not be stored under refrigeration where the air is too moist, causing the sugar to weep.

The recipe in Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques (published by Morrow) provides instructions for a nougatine base on which to build the croquembouche – which would make an ideal presentation at a wedding banquet. A round of pâte feuilletée shaped in a brioche pan would be a fine alternative for the foundation. Decorate the top with an appropriate flourish for the occasion – whether it be an anniversary, birthday, christening, or wedding.

Edited by Redsugar (log)

"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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After reading all of the wonderful info provided recently on this item, I think I'm brave enough to make one. I would like to know if anyone has ever had to travel with one. I am looking at a 2 hour drive, plus the setting up of a wedding cake before this dessert would get finished. I'm most concerned about the filling. I've never made anything like that that stuck around for more than an hour before being consumed. Should the puffs be filled after I arrive at the reception site?

I have use of a kitchen and stove to make the sauce.

Oh, another question---if they can be filled before heading out on the road, would I need to make my pyramid solid to create a more stable dessert?

thank you! Kelley

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Welcome!

If you've got the use of a kitchen, I think it would be less nerve-wracking to transport the puffs and accessory ingredients on site. If you end up transporting the whole shebang assembled make sure it's stable and your van is cold. All in all, I'd rather arrive really early than risk damaging such a showstopping dessert.

Kathryn

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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My mold is three foot high. I use it about once a month. I would never work "bottom to top". To me that is bizzare.. A serving is a heaping tablespoon.

I make this in summer all the time. There is no winter here- Honolulu is always humid.

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Wull and wouldn't you bake your puffs off really crisp & dry because you just puncture it to fill it right??? I mean if you remove the soft membranes by cutting them open you can't assemble & stack those cut ones right??

And while we're on this subject, the caramel or chocolate covers the puncture hole which is on the bottom of the puff, right??

And I'm not understanding the puff pastry in the brioche pan either. Use it upside down for the base?? :huh: getting confused

I have the home edition of a Cordon Bleu cookbook and it doesn't have the nougatine. Do you mean pour a giant solid candy base - that sounds cool.

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Well theres a fine line between dry and done. You don't want them too dry or they'll crack as you insert your filling.

I don't hold tightly to any rule as to whether you fill from the top or bottom. But if you want to cover the whole left from filling it- then you need to fill from the top. I suppose you could have your bottoms dipped in chocolate...........but typically pastries are garnished on their tops.

Rules can be broken..........

The nougatine base is something very traditionally European. In older pastry books the chefs prided themselfs in elaborate croquembouches combined with nougatine. You still can buy contempory pastry books that include this approach. I believe they also use these in place of cake for weddings. It's not done much by American chefs..........it's like so old that it's new again...........and not well known by American clients. In my personal opinion I like the idea of edible bases, etc.... but the truth is no one will eat that and using alot of nuts in nougatine can be expensive............I'd opt for a poured sugar base instead or a base covered in rolled fondant and painted with food colors.

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I have no idea how big your party is. I will fill choux one day before-unless the filling is very wet , they do not suffer.

If I am going two hours away to a wedding, I want the work done. That is up to you.

this dessert will be for the groom's cake. Size hasn't been determined yet, but we are thinking 70 puffs, since the majority of the recipes I have found make that amount. This is a tradition in the groom's family and really is more for them than feeding the entire group. Their wedding cake is pretty darned big.

I am still not sure what to fill them with that would last. Everything I read says that the filling breaks down withing a few hours, and if I did them at home, then that filling would be breaking down while driving there. I figure their wedding cake will take the better part of an hour to assemble...which puts me at 3 hours before getting to the Croquembouche.

Kelley

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I've done often whipped mascarpone- sweetened and flavored (passion fruit, vanilla bean, raspberry, etc...

I poke a hole in the bottom with a pastry tip and twist out a small round. This will not be seen. You dip the top and side in caramel (dip, turn and drip down the side). Place down at the bottom of your cone (or traced circle). Continue with the next puff and place firmly against the warm caramel side. Go around the circle and continue the next layer. I work with an ice bath next to me- and wear latex gloves. I stick my fingers in the ice water if I drip sugar on them (I also use the ice bath to shock and stop the caramel).

Seventy should be a fun size for you and not at all overwhelming.

Edited by KarenS (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Now I have to make 2 big-ass croquembouche for the Christmas Eve buffet.

I am going to the craft store to buy 2 large Christmas tree-shaped molds.

I am also ordering the cream puffs :shock: to cut my workload a bit.

Any tips?

I have only made one once, and it was a small one. I remember it being difficult to keep the caramel workable while I stuck the cream puffs to the mold.

Yarrrrgh.

:angry:

Noise is music. All else is food.

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My experience with in this field is also very limited so the usefulness of my info is probably limited as well.

Once, when I was in a hurry, I laid out the puffs on a rack and poured the caramel over a few of them at a time, then I hauled ass puting them in place before the caramel cooled. It worked, but was kind of wasteful since a lot of the caramel dripped right onto the sheet pan I had under the rack. However, it was fast. Coverage was not 100%, but the ugly part faced in and I wrapped the whole thing is spun sugar anyway so I doubt anyone could tell.

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How big is 'big-ass'?

Dip the tops of all them into the caramel and lay out on a sheet tray. When you are ready to assemble just dip the sides and stick it to it's neighbors. If you are using a mold then even making a fairly large one shouldn't take you too much time. You should be able to dip all the tops without reheating the caramel so at least the visible parts will be uniform in color, and if you have to reheat the caramel during assembly it won't be that noticeable.

Also, use the heaviest pan you have so it retains the most heat, you can also place the pan onto a hot sheet tray, over a water bath, etc.. so the caramel doesn't cool down too rapidly while you're working.

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OK, call me weird, but I actually enjoy building a croque. I even volunteered to do it for our dessert buffet/pastry party at school this week. No one else even wanted to get near it. The first ones we did were only about 60 puffs, but we built them freestyle, without a mold. The one I'm doing tomorrow will be at least 150 puffs, and I'll be using a mold.

It seems weird (and awkward) to me to build a croque inside a mold. Is it absolutely necessary for one of that size? I'm working on a 12-inch nougatine base. Part of me just wants to build it freehand again.

The several pots of caramel is a great idea, which I'll probably use to speed up the process (so there's no down time while I wait for caramel to reheat).

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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It seems weird (and awkward) to me to build a croque inside a mold. Is it absolutely necessary for one of that size?

Nope. Using a mold will just help it go faster and most likely you'll end up with a more uniform finished product. At the last place I worked we cranked out quite a few of them in varying sizes and we never used a mold. There were definitely times I wish we were using molds, but they are in no way required.

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I don't build it inside a mold, but on a stainless steel cone (I have used parking cones before). Use many pots of sugar (I turn them on in stages). If you dip and turn the puff, you won't have to dip the top separately- the caramel will roll down the side.

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the mold is used to form the shape, but the puffs are placed inside the (upside down) mold. when the mold is filled, it is inverted, then "pressed" ( i can just see the face my oh-so-french culinary instructor did as he demonstrated this, but it is hard to describe) to loosen the caramel and release the tower of puffs. voila! une croquenbouche!

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Yes, the caramel is quite strong. In fact, when dismantling mine on Saturday to serve at our party, I even squished a puff so that filling went everywhere! It was quite funny, and luckily didn't get on anyone's nice clothes.

I'll post a picture later when I'm at home. I probably should have built it in a cone, but I'd made a nougatine top for it and really wanted to use it, so I built it freehand, and came up a little short on puffs because I didn't angle in sharply enough. I was also pressed for time, and since I hadn't worked with the cone before, I didn't want to have to spend time figuring it out; I was stressed enough as it was.

Here it is:

gallery_17645_490_1103592523.jpg

edited to add photo

Edited by jgarner53 (log)

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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So you had like 200-ish puffs??? Very very very cool - I'm definitely inspired.

Something like that. I piped them out onto half sheet pans, little more than an inch across, and then counted each pan before I froze them.

I should have made a full quart of pastry cream, but we improvised with lemon curd lightened with whipped cream for the last 50 or so. Most of those went on the bottom. The base was 12 inches in diameter. The top disk of nougatine came in around 6 inches.

and rather than spin my sugar separately, I did it straight on the croque.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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  • 2 weeks later...

Allrighty kids......as I explained in this thread on spun sugar I had some issues with Croquembouche and was determined to conquer them.

After many years and many therapy sessions to help me deal with the trauma of Jabba the Puff, I decided to give it another go. In a situation with less pressure.....my employee Xmas party, which was actually a New Year's Eve party, as we were too damn tired at Christmas.

I actually almost chickened out.....but I made the decision to do it at the last minute on New Year's Eve day. Of course, Croqs need to be a last minute type of thing so it all worked out.

Firstly I must tell you all that I work at the most awesome place. My co-workers are my friends and it's a very small town.......all the "foodies" here know each other, and though we "compete" with each other, we help each other as well. Just the other day, the artisan bread guy down the road spaced out when ordering flour and got caught short....he asked me for a "loan" and I was glad to oblige. The next morning he brings me the flour he owed me plus a loaf of ciabatta right out of the oven. This is truly foodie paradise.....!

Anyway, we all thought that the best way to celebrate Xmas/New Year's would be to cook together, for ourselves, for fun. My co-workers plus others from restaurants in town prepared

the main courses and I, well, you guessed it, did the desserts. I told everyone I was ATTEMPTING Croquembouche, because I didn't want to make any guarantees it would turn out.

This time, I even had a Plan B......a couple of chocolate blood orange tarts a la Alice Medrich

just in case. No pressure.

I started with the choux paste, which I have perfected thanks to the help of all my eG'ers here

on the P&B forum! I have what I think is the most perfect choux paste recipe ever. I mixed that up and baked off all my puffs. They would have been perfect except for the fact that I forgot

to take into account that loading up 5 pans of double panned puffs in one convection oven would lower the temperature enough to reduce the puffing power of the steam coming from the eggs.

So five pans of puffs were kinda puny, and the one pan I baked off by itself was perfect. After I got done kicking myself, I started on the pastry cream which I can do in my sleep.

Finished the pastry cream and set it in the fridge to cool. Then it was off to help the hot siders in their endeavours and sip a few glasses of wine while doing so. Heck of a cooking party. We had

a ball wrapping up beef tenderloins in puff pastry with pate and duxelle to make Beef Wellingtons. They made me pipe out the Duchesse Potatoes. More wine....more fun....so great!

Make salad......get a cooking demo from one of our chef friends....we're all showing off for each other and gossiping about who's who and what's what......a foodie party extravaganza for sure.

Finally pastry cream is cool enough so that I can fill all my li'l puffs. Once filled, I started three pots of sugar 15 minutes apart so that I would have all the caramel I needed just when I needed it. Wendy/Sinclair provided me her recipe for sugar that included cream of tartar and I used it.......loved it! I had none of the recrystallizing problems that I've had in the past......thanks Wendy! I dipped my puffs with the help of my co-workers using the first two pots of sugar. The last pot was for adhering all my puffs together and doing the sugar spinning. I freehanded the Croquembouche since I didn't have a mold and it was fairly small anyway. Spinning the sugar was fun, but I think I could have done it better.....my threads were fairly straw-like instead of

hair-like, but good enough. I think I needed to stand a but further away from my dowels, but

I'll know better next time. Anyway, enough suspense. Here's a picture of the thing. I had just enough caramel at the end to cast a star in an oiled up cookie cutter.....hard to see in the pic, but it's there.

croq.jpg

My final critique of myself? It's ok. I can do better, and will next time. At least this time I got past my fear of the almighty Croq. That's the big hurdle for me.

I wanted spun sugar to make a perfect swirl around the Croq and I kept trying to "adjust" it....I found that the more you handle it, the more it compacts, so I realized I better just leave well enough alone. I also truly realized how quickly spun sugar deteriorates. I was lucky to have a relatively dry day, but even then, I could see it break down before my eyes.

So after all day cooking with my friends, I went home to change into my party duds, grab my husband, get into our van, stop at the kitchen, pick up the Croq and the Wellingtons and take them out to the New Year's Party Location.......our chef friends' beautiful house overlooking Admiralty Inlet. I hadn't eaten all day (just sipped on wine) and immediately had a martini upon arriving. Then another. Ooops. Before I knew it, I was in La-La land and talking up a storm. Not

sure what I said, but everyone talked to me the day after, so I knew it wasn't anything bad! I didn't do any table dancing either, thank god. I didn't make it til midnight.....I fell asleep on the daybed on the sun porch and the next thing I know I'm being handed a glass of champagne with the announcement, it's midnight! I immediately rushed into the main room thinking perhaps, like Cinderella, my Croquembouche might have turned into a pumpkin. Not so. Instead, a better sight.....most of it gone....devoured by the hungry hordes.

Which leads me to my last thought of the night......Croquembouche puffs are DAMN TASTY!

The crunch of the caramel, and the lightness of the pastry cream......luscious! It was the

perfect dessert to cap off the perfect meal at the perfect party.

And that, is Annie's Croquembouche Adventure.

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