It’s only a few days left until the big day…and I still have presents to wrap, cakes to finish..ah! I couldn’t let this year go without sharing one final recipe though – it’s probably one of my favourite festive ones too.
My family doesn’t really get all festive for Christmas, but every year without fail, my dad would get a couple croquembouche orders from one particular client. Constructing these large structures, reaching almost 2 feet, and weighing like a stack of bricks, was like our own Christmas tradition – building an edible Christmas tree of profiteroles.
You’ll see recipes and instructions out there for assembling with a cone, but with a careful eye you don’t need one! It also helps if you’re sticking it together with chocolate which is a lot more forgiving than sugar.
Traditionally, in Italy and France, croquembouche is often served at weddings, baptisms and first communions. But regardless of the occasion, it’s an eye-catching dessert. This recipe is for a mini croquembouche (just higher than 12 inches), a perfect dessert showstopper if you’re having a small/medium sized dinner party. Or if you’re hosting Christmas, scale up to create a breathtaking centerpiece to your dessert spread and decorate your heart out – whether it’s an icing sugar snow storm, chocolate baubles, or candy canes stuck around – after all, it’s only Christmas once a year.
And on that note, see you in 2017!
Part 1: Choux pastry
Makes about 35 small profiteroles (for an 8 pcs base), or 25 medium-sized (for a 6 pcs base). Can be stored in an airtight bag a few days prior to assembly.
2g Salt (if using salted butter, omit)
120g All purpose flour
1 Egg for egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 175℃/350℉.
- In a large pot, cook water, butter, salt and sugar over medium heat until it just boils.
- Add in flour, keep stirring until the mixture forms a dough that separates from the pot’s sides and base – it will become quite stiff at this point.
- Remove from heat and add one egg at a time, mixing in between each one to ensure it is well incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
- NOTE: careful that the eggs aren’t added while the pot isn’t over the heat, as the eggs could become scrambled.
- Scoop into a piping bag and using a round nozzle, pipe each profiterole so that it’s the size of a golf ball. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20-30 minutes, you’ll want these ones drier than your typical profiterole so they can hold shape once assembled. The shell should not be soft.
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Part 2: Custard
As this needs to be cooled, prepare up to 3 days in advance and store in the fridge.
300mL Full fat milk (3%)
Vanilla essence, to taste
3 Large egg yolks
3 tbsp Sweet potato flour*, or cornstarch
1 tbsp AP flour
¼ cup Sugar
2 caps Grand marnier
1 tbsp Unsalted butter – optional
*Your custard will separate less if you use sweet potato flour if you’re planning to keep it for a couple days and use on other cakes
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
- Sift flour and cornstarch together, whisk it together to the eggs until smooth.
- In a medium pan, heat the cream on medium heat until it’s just about ready to boil – you’ll see small bubbles appear on the side.
- Remove the cream from the heat and add ⅓ into the egg mixture to temper, add the egg mixture back into the pan of cream, and place back on the heat.
- Continue whisking the custard until it boils and thickens to a ketchup consistency. If adding butter, include at this stage. Mix until fully melted and incorporated.
- Remove from heat and place into a bowl, covering the top with saran wrap so that it touches the custard, preventing any “skin” from forming. Set aside to cool.
- When about to use, mix 2 caps of grand marnier in.
Part 3: Assembly
200g Chocolate coating
250mL Double cream
- Using a double boil, melt the chocolate coating in a medium sized heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate coating.
- While the chocolate is melting, prep the cream – in a large bowl, whisk the double cream until soft peaks using an electric hand mixer.
- Fold the cream into the custard and set aside in a chilled space
- Using a sharp serrated knife, create a hole on the underside of each profiterole – big enough to fit a piping bag nozzle.
- Fill a piping bag with the custard mixture, and using a small round-ended nozzle, pipe each profiterole until just full. Place in fridge to chill.
- Select 8 profiteroles about the same size and create a ring on a flat, circular cake board.
- Take a profiterole out of the ring and using the chocolate coating, dip it on its left side, dab some of the chocolate onto the board as glue, and ensure the chocolate end sticks to the profiterole left of the gap. Take the next profiterole, dip the left side, dab a bit on the board, and place the profiterole back in its original spot with the chocolate on the left-side. Repeat until you’ve completed the base ring, rotating the cake board as and when needed.
- The following rings will be constructed by profiteroles standing on their sides – they should be placed in the gaps between the crevices of each profiterole to complete the ring.
- Take a profiterole, dip on its left side, and ensure that a bit of chocolate is used to help it stick on top of two profiteroles, and that the profiterole base is facing inwards at a slight slant to eventually get that pyramid shape. Hold gently until slightly dry. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have completed all pieces and rings – your final piece should be a profiterole sitting on top of two that are back to back.
- TIP: with every ring, take a step back and see if you’re building it straight, or “closing it in” too fast.
- Decorate as you wish (maybe a sprinkling of icing sugar?). Here, I’ve created a simple chocolate candy cane bark which I’ve broken up and placed around the base.