How to Make a Croquembouche (and win a signed copy of Ruth Clemens’ new book!)

We all have those things we’ve been meaning to do, don’t we? You know, go to Venice, detox our wardrobe or learn how to put salt in the dishwasher. On my birthday last year, I started to make a list of all these things and decided, I’d do them by hook or by crook by the time I turn 40. I ticked one off already this year here. I’d love to say they were all related to finding enlightenment and world peace, but no. Knowing my love for sugary stuff, you can imagine that some are a bit more, err, how shall we say, calorie focussed?

How to make a croquembouche
Last month, I was asked to review Ruth Clemen‘s new book, Creative Éclairs. I eagerly flicked through, dribbling at the fabulous choux pastry confections until… I came to the very last recipe.

Could it be?

Yes.

It was a sign. A recipe for croquembouche.

How to make a croquembouche
You see, to make a croquembouche was on my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40.

A croquembouche is a French dessert, a tower of filled choux pastry balls piled into a cone shape, using caramel to secure them in place. They are often served as a wedding cake at French and Italian weddings. They are a bit terrifying. If the choux buns don’t get you, the creme patissiere could split and then there’s the caramel, the temperature of the sun, to grapple with.

So, this weekend, I went for it. I made a batch of choux buns using Ruth’s recipe. The instructions we simple, easy to follow and really clear. (I did forget to spray them as Ruth recommends, oops, sorry Ruth.)

How to make a croquembouche I made a batch of creme patissiere using the recipe in the book, chilled it over night and on Sunday morning, dispatched the husband and the children to the garden to leave me with my molten sugar. I filled the buns with the creme pat’, all going well so far.

How to make a croquembouche Next I got cracking on the caramel. I was super impressed with the recipe in the book, it uses Corn Syrup and you cook it very slowly for a long time, which seemed to keep it really stable. No annoying bubbles, no crystals, no burning.

Ruth tells you to prepare a bowl of iced water, in case of caramel scalds, eek! I am clearly less fearless than Ruth as I opted to dip the filled buns using cooking tongs rather than fingers.. A bit slower but what can I say, I’m a scardey cat. Not my neatest work, but I love how glossy these dipped buns look..

How to make a croquembouche Next, you take your filled, coated choux pastry buns and attach them to each other using more caramel. You structure the tower around a baking paper covered polystyrene cone, sprayed with cooking oil spray.

I absolutely loved constructing the tower. It was so satisfying to see the structure come together. All going well still.. Easy, bloody, peasy. Errr…

How to make a croquembouche Oh hang on, I worked out when I could smell the table burning that caramel pan is ridiculously flaming HOT. Look what it did to one of our placemats. Oops. Note, use a very sturdy surface protector next time.

How to make a croquembouche Building the tower was no sweat until the very last damn choux bun. That slippery little sucker was determined to make a bid for freedom. I didn’t have enough buns left for another whole row beneath it, so it was balanced a little precariously on the top.

By now, the children and husband were demanding to be fed and so, with no more time to make a second batch of caramel for spun sugar, I called it a day, hosed down the sticky mess of the kitchen and admired my creation.

How to make a croquembouche Ah. I do have another confession. In the photos, the polystyrene cone is still inside the tower. I was terrified that I’d pull it out, be dodging falling choux pastry buns and have nothing to show you.

However, when we went to demolish the bad boy, I did pull the cone out and apart from that one pesky top bun, is was solid as a rock! Here is is mid being served for pudding.

How to make a croquembouche
How to make a croquembouche

With the guidance from the book, it wasn’t half as difficult as I’d imagined. A bit of time and patience would help (I don’t have a huge amount of either). I’m not sure I’m any closer to spiritual enlightenment by ticking off one of my ‘must do’ things, but it was a delicious weekend.

I loved Ruth’s book, the recipes are unique and the instructions were clear, concise and easy to follow. Pop back tomorrow when I’ll be interviewing Ruth. You can also enter below, to win a signed copy of the book. Good luck choux lovers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sarah x

PS. This post is part of a blog-hop, a group of bloggers all reading, reviewing and baking from Creative Eclairs. You can read more about it here.

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Comments

  1. Jacqueline Vallance says

    Oh triple yum, that looks A-MAZE-ZING (yes I’m aware I haven’t spelt that correctly). I’ve always been in awe of a croc, always terrified I’d attach a choux bun to my fingers with boiling caramel and have to be taken to A&E after having eaten off the affected digit and possibly the entire hand………. BUT you have inspired me to give it a bash. Just one important question… I trust it has zero calories???? ;-)

  2. says

    Oh Sarah this is fab! My hubby desperately wants to make a croquembouche (or as my mum once famously mispronounced it a ‘cock en bouche’ which I think is something entirely different!). This looks amazing! I will show hubby tonight and will enter as i think he’d be very unhappy if I didn’t Well done you for pulling it off so spectacularly! xx
    Caroline (BecomingaSAHM) recently posted…Toddler Sunrise Painting – 21 monthsMy Profile

  3. says

    This is one of my favourite things in the world! I love French weddings as ‘pièce montée’ is the traditional wedding dessert there, yum, yum! I did not get to even try the one at my own wedding because I got sick during the first dance (long story). I am planning to try to make éclairs as the coffee ones are to die for and I cannot find them around here. I want that book! X Mel #TastyTuesdays

  4. Trish D says

    That looks fabulous! I wish I had the proverbial b***s to tackle one! Alas, I shall stick to profiteroles shoved full of cream and covered in chocolate orange ganache…

  5. says

    I love chox pastry! My housemate would LOVE this book, she’s a chef but really wants to be a pastry chef and is constantly baking desserts at home, she doesn’t have this book though.

    Corinne x

  6. says

    I love Choux pastry but can only seem to master balls and buns and a straight forward eclair is also on my to do list before I’m 40. I once tried a croque – en – bouche but it didn’t explain about having a fancy cone to hold up my structure

  7. says

    That photo makes me smile as it reminds me of all the weddings we’ve been to whilst living in France, in particular our own where we had a massive wedding cake just like this – sooooo good! I’m very impressed that you made this as it’s definitely not the easiest thing to do!
    #TastyTuesdays
    Sophie at Franglaise Cooking recently posted…Quiche lorraineMy Profile

  8. says

    Oh my word they look absolutely incredible! Well done you, such a brilliant creation. Great plate holding skills too, think I would have dropped it. Don’t blame you at all for keeping the cone in there! Fab post, thank you for sharing with #whatsthestory
    Charly Dove recently posted…Capturing the sceneMy Profile

  9. says

    Just seeing the word Croquembouche makes me laugh a bit because my aussie brother in law always used to tease my mum when he came over for dinner saying that he expected nothing less than one of these towering masterpieces for his dessert! It looks amazing I must say! #What’sTheStory
    Sam recently posted…IrrepressibleMy Profile

  10. says

    I love choux pastry – looks spectacular, but actually fairly easy to make. I’ve never attempted croquembouche though. Been meaning to for ages!

  11. Chantelle Kemp says

    I have never tried it before! :( Id love to have a go at this then I would get to try 2 things at the same time, the taste and the adventure of making it!! :) x

  12. says

    Oh wow, how amazing! We had a croquenbouche for our wedding in Brittany, and it was a real challenge to cut especially in front of all our guests watching us! We used a huge sword/scimitar to whack it! Absolutely delicious though, yum, well done you for tackling it! Just stumbled upon this post looking back through “What’s the story” archives on PodCast Dove
    Mama and More aka Zaz recently posted…Work.Life.Balance? Vicki Psarias-Broadbent, Film-maker and Blogger shares her work-life balanceMy Profile

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