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Croquembouche: Tips & Techniques


Wimpy
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Call me goofy, can you do individual ones with mini puffs?

Would this even work?

Has anyone done it?

I was thinking maybe 7 stacked up 4,3,2,1 and maybe a raspberry dotted here and there.

I really want to try this but don't know if it would even make sense.

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Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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Nice work (as usual) Annie. I'm glad this worked for you!

Next time (I know there will be) try adjusting the speed in which you move your arm.......if you go faster your strands will be thinner (like you wanted). Granted when you go faster your likely to send threads everywhere........but you can get them even thinner.

P.S. I love the star on top. That opens up new thoughts on how to decorate these in my future!

Handmc, yes you can make individual bouches. They look best when you bake smaller sized puffs. But then as you eat this it's more choux paste to filling ratio. Where as larger puff's I think taste better/in proportion to the filling. There's been several individual bouches published in various baking books over the years. I think the addition of raspberries would be lovely!! You can add a blanket of raspberry sauce on your plate too.

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My croque turned out nice. It was a monster, about 4 feet tall and a foot across at the base. I used almost 800 puffs.

My Chef decorated it like a real tree. He only had me make one, because it was so huge, and since it was the centerpiece he didn't think anyone would eat it.

So it was him who had to try and patch it up in between seatings on Christmas Eve. :wink:

Sinclair, I used chocolate like you do. What a great idea! That allowed me to do it in advance and I think it was a lot easier to eat.

I ended up making my own mold out of styrofoam.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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  • 1 month later...

Hmm--should've asked this more than three days before the wedding, but can someone advise on explicit ratios of recipe yield:total puffs:size of croque? I've scrolled through all the assorted posts, and can't quite piece everything together. I've made one before, but I can't remember the specs at all, and am now getting myself baffled with diagrams and so on.

1) The croque will serve about 65 people--haven't decided to do one big or two small, but I'm guessing 180 puffs or so? (That's the easiest part...)

2) Then, I'm starting with the Saveur recipe for pate a choux, which says it serves 16 people:

1 1/2 c. water

12 tbsp. butter

Salt

2 cups flour

9 eggs

About how many puffs do you think that'll yield?

3) Finally, what's a reasonable size for the base? For two small ones, I was basing the math on something like: 1st layer: 12 puffs, 2nd layer: 11 puffs, 3rd: 10, etc., but I can't remember if that's really how it works out. And will it really be about a foot high, assuming the puffs are about an inch around? Or are the puffs bigger? Really, how big is too big for the base?

Ohhhh, how I wish I'd taken notes last time...

Edited by zora (log)

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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Yield depends upon the size of your piped out puffs. Roughly your recipe should yield a full sheet pan 18" x 24" which (just guessing) is about 80 puffs or so.

Assembling into a cone shape sure has alot of variables, mainly how big your baked puffs are and how well you stack them. I'd say based on what I do, my average base consists of almost 20 puffs, but I'm probably aiming for a taller cone then you. 12 puffs definately seems like too little....this will be a very small cone.

I'm sorry, I can't be more specific....theres just too many variables. When you think about stacking them remember ........the puff may rest in between two joined puffs so it's not stacking at it's highest point. 12, 1" puffs stacked may equal 9" tall not 12" tall.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi, all - I made my first croquembouche over the weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by a few things - the cream puffs didn't get especially soggy after being filled, the caramel threads were easier to make than first expected, and the cone-o-puffs was far more stable than I expected. I was especially grateful for the past croquembouche forum threads - made me much more confident. Hooray!

Before I start my next attempt, I'm hoping someone can offer up a helping hand with a couple of questions:

1. What's the best way to get a thinner caramel coating on my puffs? I didn't realize it until we started eating them, but my dipped puffs seemed to have too heavy a caramel coat, so you had to take a really hard bite to crunch into the puff... and then the caramel stuck to your teeth something awful. I don't want to be detaching my guests' fillings during dessert. Will keeping the caramel warmer during dipping help with this? Or is there a way to brush on the caramel somehow? Or should I skip dipping the tops completely?

2. The dipped puffs remained slightly sticky after the caramel hardened. The caramel wasn't goopy, but it was tacky enough that you'd have to wipe off your fingers (or lick them) before touching anything else. I'm guessing this was due to the weather - it was overcast and damp, although not raining. Is that true? Or should I be doing something else to reduce stickiness?

3. How do you serve the darn thing, other than ripping it apart with your hands? I need to make a croquembouche for a wedding, and I'd like to keep the portioning process semi-polite :laugh: Grab a knife and hack away to create portions of 3 or 4 puffs?

As background, this was my process: Dip tops of baked puffs into caramel; let set. Fill puffs with pastry cream. Dip sides/bottom of puffs into caramel and construct croquembouche. I use Pichet Ong's choux recipe and Wendy's spun sugar (14 oz. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, 8 liq. oz. water) from this thread.

Thanks for any and all advice!

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1. What's the best way to get a thinner caramel coating on my puffs?

Keep the caramelized sugar very hot -- the hotter it is, the thinner it will be, and the less will adhere. That's the only thing I can think of.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I actually had a company making Croquenmbouches years ago, one of the best tips I ever heard of ,and still in use to this day is just at about reaching desired caramel, whisk in a couple of pieces of Cacao Butter, this acts like a "moisture barrier" and the caramel will hold up alot better. upon dipping the choux in caramel, I set them on silpat to create a flat surface.The Pastry cream needs to be stiff and non watery(no synerisis).

Tongs are the way to go, by the time your service starts, the caramel should pick up enough ambient moisture so that they can be pulled apart.

hope this helps,

Michael :smile:

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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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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?

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.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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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:

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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...

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

www.onetoughcookienyc.com

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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 hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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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.

www.onetoughcookienyc.com

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  • 9 months later...

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 !

www.diariesofadomesticatedgoddess.blogspot.com

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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.

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  • 1 month later...

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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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 (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

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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