A little while ago I talked about having a Food Bucket List. I’ve been conquering items on it on at a time, like these chocolate mint macarons.
Do you have a Food Bucket List? Maybe for cooking, maybe for eating?
I’ve got various and sundry things on my bucket list – mostly having to do with complicated dessert-related ventures that strike the fear of failure into my heart. One of my bucket list items is a croquembouche.
I used to work in a little French patisserie in New Zealand. Beautiful, elaborate cakes went flying out the door and off to delight guests of weddings and birthday parties. I learned about fondant and ganache and spun sugar, and ate my weight in day-old mille feuille and praline cakes. The Austrian pastry chef, Gustav, made a gigantic croquembouche for a wedding and I remember it distinctly: crossing my fingers as it was carried out of the bakery, hoping that the sugar would hold all the airy cream puffs in their pyramidal shape.
When I was recently asked by Bunny. Eats. Design., a blogger from New Zealand, to participate in a blogging event that showcased bloggers learning and experimenting in the kitchen, I was all for it. The event is called “Our Growing Edge,” and this month all of the bucket list successes submitted by bloggers far and wide are being curated by the fine folks at a blog called Keeping Up With The Holsby’s.
Anyways, I was stoked. My mind immediately honed in on the possibility of finally making a showy cone of cream puffs of my very own.
After a lot of thought, I decided to avoid the spun sugar (I thought I was pushing my envelope enough and, let’s face it, when not crusted over a ramekin of creme brulee, caramelized sugar isn’t all that much to write home about anyways). I took a page from another favourite blog of mine, Dinner With Julie, who had recently done a chocolate drizzled croquembouche which sat on top of a cake.
I decided then that this would be a perfect opportunity to test out a cake I’d been meaning to make for a while – a blueberry white chocolate coffee cake I had found in Musicians, Memories and Morsels, a cookbook I gave away on here a couple months ago. I could do a half batch that would just be enough for the base of my croquembouche, and make it with raspberries instead of blueberries.
My imagination alight and my plan in place, I hit up the kitchen.
Here’s what you need:
For the choux (the pastry part of the cream puffs) –
1 1/2 cups water
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
6 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Milk to glaze
For the pastry cream –
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
For the cake base –
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cups frozen or fresh raspberries
For the croquembouche –
White chocolate molding candy
Here’s what you do:
For the choux –
Preheat your oven to 375F. Put the water, salt, butter and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and dump all the flour in, stirring until it begins to come together as a cohesive dough. Return the pot to the heat for a minute or two, continuing to stir, to allow it to dry out a little more.
Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the eggs, the equivalent of one at a time. Stir until each addition of egg is incorporated before adding more. The goal is to have a heavy, glossy dough that will fall off your spoon – you may not need to add all the eggs to achieve this. Once you have, beat in the vanilla, and spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
Pipe the dough onto parchment-covered baking sheets, forming little balls (or Hershey’s kiss-like shapes) about 1 inch wide and about 2 inches apart. Brush the tops of the balls with milk. Bake until puffed up, dry, and golden – about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
For the pastry cream –
Place the milk in a saucepan with the split vanilla bean and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime, beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is a pale yellow colour. Gradually beat in the flour. Whisk in the vanilla milk in a steady stream. Bring the whole mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Set aside to cool with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.
For the cake –
Grease an 8″ round cake pan and line it with wax paper. Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar, alternating with the yogurt to make three additions of dry ingredients and two of the yogurt. Stir in the white chocolate and raspberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until golden, and until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
To finish the croquembouche –
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate molding candy. Dip the bottom of each cream puff into the chocolate and arrange in a pyramid on top of the cake. (I would suggest waiting until the chocolate firms before adding each layer, for fear of structural disasters). Once your pyramid is complete, poke some raspberries in at random all over the structure, and then dip the tines of a fork into the remaining white chocolate and drizzle the chocolate back and forth over the cake (this is the best part!).
I’m so excited to have completed my goal! Now, to dig into it after Easter dinner and see how it tastes! I know this looks like a really complicated recipe, but you could totally just buy the cream puffs and make a slab cake and go to town with some melted chocolate. Unless, of course, now this cake has made it on to your bucket list as well!
Croquembouche recipe adapted from Laura Calder’s Croquembouche.
Cake recipe adapted from Musicians, Memories, and Morsels.