A conical tower of choux pastry balls bound together with caramel and decorated with spun sugar – this week’s challenge on my patisserie course. I have to say I was quite chuffed with the result.
Traditionally a croquembouche is served as an alternative to a wedding or celebration cake in France and Italy and the translation of ‘croque en bouche’ means ‘crunch in the mouth’. It is widely thought to have been invented back in the early 19th century by Marie Antoine Carême, possibly the first ‘celebrity chef’ in history, who was famous for his elaborate, completely edible, constructions which stood several feet high. His ‘pièces montées’ formed centrepieces at diplomatic and high society functions in France and he took ideas from architectural books creating edible temples, pyramids and ancient ruins.
It is quite time consuming to make and if decorated with spun sugar really needs to be eaten straight away but it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor! To save time we’d been asked to make about 80 choux pastry balls at home. In true Blue Peter ‘here’s one I made earlier’ style, I also crafted a cardboard cone (from an old cereal packet) and covered it with a disposable plastic icing bag.
On the evening I nervously attempted to make caramel AGAIN – I hadn’t yet managed to successfully end up with a saucepan of caramel at the right colour and temperature without it crystalising or setting rock solid before I could work with it. Careful watching as the liquid bubbled away, brushing down the pan sides with water, removing any scum and adding a small squirt of liquid glucose seemed to do the trick and I ended up with a pan of almost perfect caramel. Assembling the choux balls around the cone is a relatively simple step which needs to be done quickly before the caramel sets and carefully to avoid getting any of the boiling caramel on your skin! Caramel is very versatile and can be used to make some beautiful decoration for desserts.
|Examples of sugar work produced in an earlier class|
One of the single mum’s on the course who has 2 jobs hadn’t managed to make any choux buns in advance so I offered her half of mine and cut down the size of my cone accordingly - it ended up being only 20cm in height!! Miniscule compared to the world record breaking Indian croquembouche at 4.5m (Wikipedia).
Finally I decorated my ‘pièces montée’ with moulded white chocolate flowers and spun sugar. The modelling paste I made from white chocolate, sugar syrup and liquid glucose and the spun sugar / angel hair is made by pulling cooled (but not set hard) caramel between two forks around the cone. Voila…..