Fun to say, fun to eat, crazy to assemble: a croquembouche! It’s a tree made up of profiteroles and held together with glassy caramel. Week 48: Croquembouche
Tis the season for decorating trees, both real, plastic and pastry. The concept is daunting – glue a bunch of round pastries together with finicky caramel that hardens within minutes. And the results are, in my case, a little less impressive than anticipated. (I made the Charlie Brown tree of croquembouches. Merry Christmas!)
The name comes from the crunchy texture of the caramel. Trust me, it’s deceivingly crunchy! The caramel is a mix of just corn syrup, sugar and water; quite unlike the cream and butter version I’m used to making. I had so much fun making glassy caramel strands – they just kept going with no end in sight! It was almost worth the occasional burns from the boiling sugar (oops.)
Sorry for my tardiness in posting this week – Thanksgiving weekend got away from me! Got to see Disneyland in full Christmas decor (truly magical!) and Joshua Tree for the first time (the Cholla Cactus Gardens are almost, if not more, magical than Disneyland.) Go forth and explore! But then come home and bake, cuz balance.
First step: make the choux pastry. It’s truly the little pastry dough that could.
All magic begins with butter.
The calm before the storm.
Before and after eggs. The recipe listed 6 eggs on the ingredients list, 5 in the directions and I only used 4. It’s definitely one of those “until it looks right” concepts. The dough should be glossy and elastic, not super wet or egg-y. Also, if you’re ever creating a recipe for publishing, please proofread. Tis annoying to have different amounts of ingredients listed in the directions. And why do some recipes never list the water that is needed? I’ll save this unimportant rant for another day.
I had to pat down their little pointed hats so they didn’t cook too quickly and burn in the oven. Next time, I want to try making slightly larger ones – just to see how it changes the texture, if at all!
My arch-nemesis: pastry cream, creme patisserie. . . it goes by many aliases. Tastes so good, but never thickens. If anyone has any tips, please let me know! I have to hunker down and research some more on why my cream refuses to thicken. I even tried adding a corn starch slurry to artificially thicken it and it wasn’t thrilled about it.
Pausing for a moment over this fabulous platter. It even has texture for the fur! So strange, so amazing. . .
Caramel time! I know it’s the wrong season for it, but I was definitely humming “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” while the caramel darkened. It took it’s sweet time too. No rushing caramel. But of course, if you let it do it’s own thing and stop paying attention, it burns. It’s the Goldilocks of sauces.
Best part!! (Besides eating it, obviously.) This must be the kind of caramel they use on the Great British Bake Off when they are trying to get the pointy tips on glazed hazelnuts.
Caramel “glass,” so cool, huh?
The tree would have been taller if I hadn’t eaten so many cream puffs while waiting for the caramel to darken. This is a cautionary tale.
Of course, more caramel strands are quite welcome. Even a whole birds nest of them on top – the styles vary from bakery to bakery. It’ll amaze you how rock-hard the caramel gets a minute or two after applying it.
Happy munching (or should I say, crunching for this bake?)!
Recipe partially from: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/croquembouche