After 4 and 1/2 hours of stirring, piping, whisking, heating, sticking and swirling we created a birthday Croquembouche!
It felt a bit like cheating but the recipe for the Choux pastry had us put it in a food processor to blend in the eggs. This worked well and I was quite surprised at how basic each component of the recipe is. It is all very time-consuming though!
I have made profiteroles once before using (cringe) ‘packet mix’ (blasphemy!) now, having made them from scratch I’ve realised that someone is making a lot of money out of nothing selling packet mix profiteroles. The ingredients are flour, water, eggs, unsalted butter and a pinch of salt. So if your packet mix asks you (as is usually the case) to add butter, water and eggs then really all you are buying is flour and a pinch of salt in fancy packaging!
Apart from some of the mixture getting sucked into the centre of the food processor the first batch went smoothly. I started spooning the mixture on to the trays while Nanna searched high and low for her cake decorating supplies so that we could pipe the mixture. She looked up from her search long enough to say ‘No not that big! Make them smaller!’ which was lucky because once they went in the oven I realised what a huge difference a little bit of mixture makes! After finding the piping bag it became clear that one batch wouldn’t be enough to cover the tin so Nanna popped out to the shops for milk, eggs and flour (whoops! only missing the major ingredients!). I finished up piping the first batch – which was not as easy as they make it look on Masterchef. The mixture is so sticky I found it nearly impossible to keep it in a nice round ball, every time I lifted the piping bag away the mixture I had just piped came away with it! I twisted, flicked turned and smooshed but all of my little profiterole shapes ended up with pointy tower tops! So I went back to the spoons to moosh them all back into shape.
Once in the oven I got to cleaning up all the utensils, and the mess in the food processor, ready for the next batch.
I had just finished all the dishes, the profiteroles in the oven, 20 minutes into their cooking time had popped up nicely so we had a cup of tea and I went to blow up some balloons and add some more birthday decorations to the dining room until Nanna gently reminded me that perhaps it was time to put the second batch on! I would never cope on Masterchef! What would I do without my Nanna to call when things are not working?
So, we switched the oven trays of the first batch to help them cook evenly and got to work on the second batch. Water and butter in the pan, then grab the salt grinder from the pantry and grind on some… Whoops! That’s the pepper, quick out comes the butter, scrape off the pepper, fish out the couple of pepper grinds that ended up in the water… now go back to the pantry, check the container.. yes salt.. good!
Oh dear, still, as far as disasters go this was really the worst of it. I’d love to have something funnier to tell, there’ll be plenty more disaster stories to come in the future! This time though everything went smoothly, except again for the second batch making an even worse mess in the food processor, I’m not sure what’s wrong with it but now it’s got Choux pastry in it which will never come out again!
First batch out, second batch in and on to the pastry cream. Oh pastry cream! With 6 egg yolks it is the most decadent custard style cream you’ve ever tasted! Nanna tried to make me whistle while I cooked so that she would know that if I stopped whistling I must be eating the mixture ; ) The left over egg whites have gone into Nanna’s freezer so I hope I’m home again when that big six egg white Pavlova gets made! Yum!
By this stage it was quite late in the day, I still had to assemble the Croquembouche and get home to do hair, makeup and costumes! First the hot pastry cream had to be cooled down, so, cold rainy day that it was I put it on the verandah. Then when it had cooled down there enough into the freezer it went!
- Ready to pipe the Pastry Cream
When it was luke warm we got to piping! No time to waste! I piped the cream into the oddly sized and somewhat misshapen profiteroles then handed them to Nanna who stuck them to our dolly varden tin. Our construction line continued until the tin was covered with only one profiterole to spare! We had lots of pastry cream left (yum!) but we were good and piped it into the gaps between the profiteroles on the tin. Although later when Nanna was washing out the piping back I caught her squeezing out some left overs!
All that was left to do was make the toffee which I somehow managed to crystallise and turn back into sugar, but not before we’d dripped some over the Croquembouche to hold it together. Following the Masterchef recipe I re-heated my crystalised mess, smashing it off the back of the ladle and spoons we’d used until it melted down again, this time making a much darker toffee. We waited until it was just beginning to set then dipped the two forks back to back in and had a go at making the spun sugar. After much more toffee got dripped all over the Croquembouche I finally got it! It was so exciting and really fun, Nanna had to stop me or the cake would have ended up looking like a beehive (and I mean the hairdo)!
Then with final touches, some violets fresh from Nanna’s garden and of course candles!
The end product!
Just a quick note – for anyone else making the Croquembouche, we kept our Croquembouche in a cool dark room until serving but even so the spun sugar had melted and some of the other toffee started to drip by serving time. I’m not sure whether the pastry would end up a bit soggy in the fridge but at least the toffee wouldn’t melt! Any advice/experiences from anyone else on this would be welcome!
Much love Amanda xox