Do you guys also have the Food Network as part of your tv package? If you do, you probably know what the Baking Championship series is all about.
After the Spring edition ended I had a craving to make all manner of spring desserts. I have a sweet tooth and am most likely addicted to sugar. To steal a good joke, I should probably go to the Betty Crocker clinic for treatment.
One of the desserts that looked particularly good to my sugar-addled brain was the famed croquembouche. It’s french for “crunch in the mouth”, that’s a very literal translation but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s a crunchy sugar-coated pâte à choux filed with a whipped custard/creme of some sort.
Who do I turn to for the best recipes when it comes to ridiculous desserts? Martha Stewart.
Faithful as always, I follower her recipe and have shared it below for you guys, with my advice written in with the directions.
For the record, she has two recipes on her website. The first croquembouche recipe is for something that could feed an army and involves spun sugar, while the second croquembouche recipe (Which I chose) is for a smaller crowd and involves sugar cookies.
FOR THE PATE A CHOUX PUFFS
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Caramel Cream
FOR THE ASSEMBLY
- Caramel ** I didn’t actually manage to pull off any of the caramel recipes, so look for one that works for you
- Sugar Cookies, decorated with Royal Icing and fine sanding sugar ** not necessary for the completion of a delicious croquenbouche.
Make the puffs: Bring milk, water, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, and whisk in flour. Return to heat, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed to cool slightly, about 1 minute. With machine running, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Whisk together yolk and heavy cream. Pipe about one hundred 1-inch puffs (about the size of a quarter) onto each prepared sheet. Gently brush with egg wash. Bake until puffs rise and are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. (Puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)
PRO TIP: Only bake the choux on a silpat. I tried a batch on parchment paper, and another batch on non-stick pans and they ALL stuck to the trays and were ruined.
Transfer caramel cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Insert tip of pastry bag into base of each puff, and fill each. Return to sheets in a single layer as you work.
- PRO TIP: I found the caramel creme hard to make and the recipe was a tad complicated. I would substitute this recipe for anything that you could pipe: chocolate mousse, whipped icing, jam etc. Be creative! Make it taste the way you want.
Assemble the croquembouche: Dip top half of each filled puff into caramel (be careful not to burn your fingers), letting excess drip back into pan. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand until caramel is set. ** I skipped the “setting” part and just assembled the croquenbouche as I went. I would definitely follow this step though, otherwise you end up with a sugary liquid coating around the croquenbouche. Key word here is “liquid.”
Carefully dip bottom half of 1 puff into caramel, letting excess drip into pan. Transfer puff, hot caramel side down, to a serving platter. Repeat with 9 more puffs, forming a connected ring as you work. Repeat with more puffs, layering rings to form a 6-layer pyramid, using 45 or 50 puffs total. (If the caramel begins to harden, reheat briefly over low heat.)
Attach sugar cookies to sides and base of croquembouche, using royal icing or caramel as “glue.” **un-necessary, but you could easily add any number of other treats like jellybeans, smarties, nuts etc.
To make a second croquembouche, make another batch of caramel, and repeat with remaining filled puffs. (Alternatively, serve the remaining puffs on the side.) Serve immediately, or let stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours. **girl, how many of the puffs did you make?!