Twenty years ago I catered functions where I designed menus with this as the spectacular
It is a very easy confection but does take time and planning.
(I have my Christmas Pavlova in the oven so I thought I would work on this post. The Pavlova
will be the next post!)
First you make cream puffs out of pate a choux dough and let them dry out and set up. Pate a choux
is a French light pastry dough (oh, those French!) used to make eclairs, beignets, gougeres, churros,
cream puffs, Paris-Brest.....
In a small saucepan, place 1 cup water, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar,
and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Bring to a boil. Have measured out 1 cup all purpose flour and dump
that into the pan all at once and start stirring. The mass will leave the sides of the pan and gather
into a ball. A film will form on the bottom of the pan. (I used to always sieve my flour so there
would be no lumps)
Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. I usually let it rest for just a few minutes so it is not quite
so piping hot. Have 4 large eggs at room temperature and add one at a time, beating on medium
speed and allowing each egg to become fully incorporated before adding the next egg.
You are now ready to pipe or spoon the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. You can use
two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and then using your finger dipped in water or
egg, smooth the tops of the doughs. Or you can neatly pipe the dough with a pastry bag and tip to create your puffs, again smoothing the tops. Allow about 3 inches between the puffs.
Bake the puffs at 425 degrees F. for about 20-30 or 35 minutes. The size of the puffs will determine
the length of baking time. The puffs should be golden brown, nicely puffed and hollow. I used to
always pick one puff out of the oven quickly and place it close to my ear. If I heard it sizzle, I knew
the fat was still "cooking" so it would go back into the oven for a few more minutes.
The next step is to fill the cream puffs. You can fill them with whipped cream, pastry cream,
chocolate mousse, lemon mousse......whatever you like.
Then you get to the caramel sugar! Many recipes will state that it only takes 10-12 minutes to
bring your sugar to the caramel stage. That can set you on the road to frustration! You will
need at least 20, possibly more, minutes so do not despair.
Some recipes will call for only sugar and water. I use sugar, water and light corn syrup. I also
do not stir the mixture at all, after the initial stir to mix. I do swirl the pan, however. Most recipes
will call for brushing down the sides of the pan so the sugar does not crystalize. I do not find this
In saucepan, place 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup and 2/3 cup water. Stir to only mix the
ingredients and then put the spoon away and do not stir again.
Once the sugar has turned amber, plunge the pan into an ice cold water bath to stop the cooking
process. Now you will have a dark syrup and you are ready to "glue" your cream puffs.
Using a cake round or a plate, dip the cream puffs and place in a circle and then build on that
to create a cone-like pyramid. The caramel will keep each cream puff in place once it has been
dipped and placed.
For fun, you can add raspberries, strawberries, etc. to your pyramid. You can also drizzle chocolate
over the cream puffs prior to dipping in caramel.
Then for the most fun ever, use a fork and swirl the caramel around your croquembouche, creating spun sugar. This is absolutely gorgeous and is the great finale!
I do hope you will try this and let me know how it turns out. This is a great dessert for the Christmas