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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Culinary School - Session 17: Croquembouche

Culinary School: Session 17 (09.24.14)


If you build it...

That's right. We finally conquered the Croquembouche, an appropriately celebratory dessert that marked the end of our tour through the world of Pate a Choux.

Next up, Pate Feuilletee or puff pastry!


- Ingredients Running Tally -

Whereas Pate a Choux kept the chickens busy, it's cow time with Pate Feuilletee: so much butter in the weeks to come!

Ingredients used to date (09.24.14):
  • Flour: 6,675g
  • Eggs: 4,050g (81x)
  • Sugar: 4,600g
  • Butter: 4,150g
  • Milk/Cream: 3,900g

- The Recipes -



The Croquembouche is simple enough in concept. It is a tower of individually cream-filled Choux, held together by a crunchy veneer of maple-blond caramel. The Croquembouche is visually stunning, designed to elicit those "how did they do that?" reactions and making it the perfect dessert "cake" for celebrations such as weddings and christenings.

The Croquembouche gets its reputation for being one of the most technically demanding desserts because of the assembly process. Making hundreds of identically shaped Choux is the easy part (if you're good with your piping bag... if you're not, you will be after this). 

Decorated Choux for a Croquembouche

The somewhat difficult part is gluing together all of those Choux using caramel. Caramel is hot... very hot... skin searingly hot. Caramel also continues to cook after it is removed from the heat, getting darker and darker in color in a very short period of time. That's not good if you want uniformly colored Choux. 

And caramel hardens quickly at room temperature. A pot of this liquid, edible glue soon becomes a rock-solid mass. When assembling a tower, you'll likely need to return to the stove to make several new batches of caramel before you're done.

If there were ever a good argument for proper mise en place, it's the Croquembouche. 

Focus Techniques:
- Proper mise en place: it is critical that all tools and ingredients for the Croquembouche are ready to go once you start assembling.
- Piping uniformly sized Choux. If there is variation in the size among the puffs, the tower will quickly become lop-sided or have visible holes. 
- Making dry and wet caramels for dipping and glue.
- Flashing a pot of caramel in an ice bath to slow the cooking (colorization) process.
- Placing a pot of caramel on a warm surface to slow the hardening process while assembling the Croquembouche.

Individual Choux

Coconut Dipped Choux

Caster Sugar Dipped Choux

Assembling the Croquembouche

Final Croquembouche

Take a look at the full syllabus

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