Sunday, 18 May 2014

Croquembouche

I do enjoy a cooking challenge and will often opt for the fiddliest of recipes. So, for this year's World Baking Day, this choux pastry virgin decided to take the plunge.

Whilst I am certainly no Eric Lanlard or Antoine Carême in the kitchen, I fancied trying my hand at a Croquembouche, the towering French dessert made of elegantly stacked profiteroles, fused together with caramel. I thought that with some patience and a steady hand, that it couldn't really be that difficult. Could it?!

Rather than following one version, I decided to do my own mash-up of various recipes scattered across the web. Delia's Choux pastry recipe was easy, Raymond Blanc's Crème Patissière recipe was also easy (especially after I put my stamp on it by adding some Cointreau) and the Caramel was easier still. Put all three together and we're rocking and rolling, non!

I rattled around very happily in the kitchen all morning. My Crème Patissière was a triumphant concoction of creamy dreaminess, my golden choux pastry was perfect and light as air and my caramel, a glistening pot of luminous amber. Everything was going swimmingly.


I know you're waiting for it baking chums, so here is the twist in the tale. Maybe I said easy, easy, easy far too quickly. Several hours in and it was time to bring all the magical components of the croquembouche together. Caramel-burnt fingers, soggy bottoms, deflating choux puffs and oozing custard are what followed. 

After using the caramel to build the tower, I had intended to clothe it in golden swathes of finely spun sugar but at that point, my saucepan of caramel had begun to look more like an angry, bubbling tar pit and certainly didn't appear to be up for the job.

Pressing on, I placed my nude Croquembouche on a stand, barely having enough time to style it up, giving it a rose to protect its modesty and throwing a few spare profiteroles at it to hide some dodgy bits.

Alas, my efforts were in vain. Momentarily after I taking this picture, my beloved Croquembouche took a deep sigh, leaned to the left, dramatically muttered the words "I love you all" and then flopped over in an exhausted pile.

I'm sure you'll all be greatly relieved to hear, that I emerged the other side of a monumental pile of pots and pans with custard in my hair and a only a few minor caramel burns. It goes without saying that I shall be parading these like victory scars over the coming week. 

I am still pretty pleased with my first attempt. Whilst it may not be thing of great beauty, I have made a Croquembouche. Even if, it only stood upright for five minutes.


Happy World Baking Day!

23 comments:

  1. That's utterly wonderful and incredibly ambitious! I would nerve have guessed you would opt for that, talk about jumping in both feet first - hope you ate loads of it after its dying swan exit.

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    1. After scanning the horizon for any competition, we went into a feeding frenzy like a pack of ravenous hyenas.

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  2. Decades ago, when life wasn't fraught with so much gardening, traveling, aches and pains, I do recall sending the littl'uns out to play and spending much of a day trying to create something resembling a Croquembouche for a party that night! Big mistake on my part - much too involved - only did basic cream puffs after that if the need for choux pastry somethings arrived! Your creation does look very elegant before the fall Paul - kinda reminds me of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai!

    What's coming up next in your kitchen? Today I'm making roasted red pepper soup (grilled the peppers on the outside grill last evening, with jasmine fragrance all around!), and fresh herbed mozzarella bruschetta with a green salad. Dessert is apple and blackberry crumble sans "swathes of finely spun sugar" - definitely easy peasy compared to Croquembouche!!!

    Happy Sunday - sounds like England is getting some hot weather at last.
    Hugs - Mary

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    1. I hear you loud and clear Mary, I nearly did a u-turn and served up profiteroles but it was far to late and couldn't back out:)
      I have lots of tasty treats lined up but your lunch sounds so yummy, I'll be over in a jiffy!
      Hello weekend sunshine indeed. Paul x

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    1. It was so delicious Phyllis, I tried to save you some but it didn't last long round here:)

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  4. Dear Paul,
    what a wonderful creation!
    You animated me to bake too today: a lot less sophisticated than your baking art piece - but very, very delicious too. You will find it under http://berlinletters.blogspot.de/ - a Flourless Chocolate torte with macerated strawberries. Thank you for telling me of the World Baking Day! Britta

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    1. I'm so glad I inspired you to join in the spirit of things Britta, your cake sounds divine. I'm orf to have a look:)

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  5. I am so proud of you Mr P! Well done. It doesn't look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa at all. Send some over here. I would like to try your croquembouche with caramel. Must be tasting so delicious. I hope you didn't eat it all? Happy Sunday! :))

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    1. If you look closely you can see both the lean and the oozing Crème pat. I was very good and only had a small serving, luckily we had lots of willing mouths that happily gobbled up the rest. Happy Sunday Miss P.

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  6. Oh Paul, I forgot all about your challenge......Shame on me. I have been showing my home town to my aunt :-)That croquembouche looks really impressive! Well done to you!! Looking forward to see more of those delicious threats!

    Madelief x

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    1. Well, I'll let you off Madelief, you have served the baking community well, so we shall overlook the matter of missing World Baking Day just this once. Hope you are having a great time with your Aunt. I love how you think my treats have now become threats, it wasn't that bad :))

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  7. Paul, This was too funny. I love your writing. I see you bustling about making these and the collapse! Oh I am in fits here. I give you credit. I would not even attempt this. Well once in my 20s I did make cream puffs, but I was young and clueless. Now I only wish I could have been there to eat the remains. I'm sure they were still fabulous! I have to tell you thanks for getting me hooked on the British Bake -off shows. They are so much better than anything here in the states. Paul I wish you lived in my neighborhood. We could share our baking experiments with each other. xx Kim

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  8. Dear Mr Paul - that is MAGIC - you are such an adventurous cook - hope the eating was good?

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  9. My mouth was watering reading this post! Brilliant!
    Must try to incorporate 'croquembouche' into a conversation today - what a word!!
    Have a lovely week,
    Liz x

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  10. At least it had the decency to stay up for your scrumptious looking photo. Love the rose detail, gives it a little flamenco flair. Ole!

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  11. I fear, Paul, that I missed World Baking Day as well. Mind you, I feel inspired by your work. Maybe this weekend I can do something to rectify this omission and justify it by saying that it will still be within the Octave of World Baking Day…
    Kirk

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  12. Quite magnificent Paul! Cointreau and caramel? Sounds absolutely heavenly…..
    Sophia x

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  13. What a triumph! I love your description of its demise. Still chuckling "I love you all" plop! Sounds like one of my nights out :-)
    Di
    xoxoxo

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  14. Amazing you are to embark on such a thing! This is so freaking funny to read! Loved your effort and the telling of it. I hope you all enjoyed the remnants, I bet you did!

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  15. That is precisely the reason I do not bake nearly every attempt ends in disaster! I admire your sense of humor!

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  16. Paul, Your Croquembouche is gorgeous, and I'm impressed! Well done!

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  17. Paul, I salute you! You should be more than proud of your beautiful masterpiece! It looks fabulous and I am sure that it tasted wonderful even after if fell over!

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