Croquembouche, Take Two

I stated that following my last croquembouche attempt: I’d like to try again, but I’d make sure that I had an extra set of hands to assist. Last week we celebrated my Dad’s 60th birthday with a bowtie- themed extravagansa (my parents are odd) which was catered for, but I wanted to incorporate something homemade too. My Dad adores custard (according to my boss the way to impress any man is to make him custard?!) and a croquembouche certainly makes an impressive centrepiece.

Like last time, I started the process the day before, making the creme patisserie, using Michel Roux’s recipe. I forgot to halve the quantities though, so oh so much custard! The next day I started on the choux balls. This was where I encountered most of the problems last time, so I decided to use a different recipe. I was given Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion as an early Christmas present and she has a very straightforward recipe for making choux pastry. I was also reassured that it would work after I read this attempt I was very concerned with undercooking the pastry again, and in my oven, I think they probably ended up cooking for over an hour. Even though I tried to pipe them quite small, I still only got about 40 balls from the mixture. Compared to last time, they definitely puffed up more, and were dried out, although there was some variation. Still an improvement!

Later that night, my friend came over to provide assistance for the construction. It took us two attempts to get the correct consistency for the toffee as the first lot crystalised (I’m too impatient!) The second one worked though, although perhaps still a little thick. With Naomi’s engineering background (!) she was able to provide structural guidance for the construction. This worked so well: I’d dip the balls and then place them where she specified, which she would then hold in place until the toffee set. And only one finger was burnt! After the accomplishment of the construction we attempted to “spin” sugar (we’d seen them do it on Masterchef) to varying degrees of success. We were able to get some good threads, but they then mostly snapped once they touched the croquembouche. I was still impressed with what we managed. Unfortunately by the next day, they seemed to have melted.

In comparison with last time, this was a much better version of a croquembouche. It was enjoyed at the party- I didn’t taste any, but people were complimentary.  Having said that, I think it is very unlikely I’ll make another one; the effort and process is reasonably arduous and I’m not really sure the result and flavour is worth it. Still, I feel like I have achieved croquembouche redemption!


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