Continuing with the Chocolate French holiday theme, I thought I'd tackle the Croquembouche. Croquembouche (aka Croquenbouche) is a high mound of profiteroles (choux filled with pastry cream/creampuffs) sometimes bound by dipping in chocolate or carmel and decorated with threats of caramel, chocolate, ribbons or flowers. Croquembouche means Crunch in the Mouth. Although this lovely creation is served at French (and other) weddings, it's also created for other special events.
Two weeks ago on Chef's Academy the students made croquembuches. Chef Novelli made a very elaborate one to demonstrate, but I must admit I thought for all its technical merit, his final Croquembuche looked messy. Some of the students made better looking ones. Last night I was watching the FoodNetwork Sugar Holiday Challenge, and one of the Iron Chefs made a lovely chocolate Croquembouche. Haven't found that specific recipe yet, but the way I've always done it is by making cream puffs, stuffing themwith whipped cream or chocolate ganache, and then coating with chocolate (to stick together) and then drizzling chocolate over the whole thing after stacking. Not quite as pretty as drizzled with spun sugar, but either works. This is a fun dessert to eat since you deconstruct the Croquembuche. The Croquembuche is quite beautiful and will give a real wow factor to your holiday table. I usually make this for New Year's Eve, but any time or special occasion is great. Lots of people have a croquembuche at their Christmas table which is why I'm mentioning it today.
There's a great Video Demonstration on how to assemble a croquembouche. I chose this one because the croquembouche is drizzled with chocolate, as well as stuck together with chocolate.
I don't really have a recipe for Croquembuche. It's another one of those desserts that I just make without looking at a recipe.
But for those of you who are challenged in that arena, I found a recipe for Chocolate Croquembouche on the Epicurious website (Bon Appetit/December 2001)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
For pastry cream:
Whisk sugar and flour in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in milk, then egg yolks. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until cream thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface. Chill pastry cream until cold and firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
For cream puffs:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil, whisking until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Remove from heat. Add flour and cocoa all at once; whisk until smooth and blended (dough will form ball). Stir over low heat until dough leaves film on pan bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to large bowl; cool to lukewarm, about 8 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time.
Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets in at least 64 scant 1-inch mounds. Using moistened fingertips, smooth any pointed tips on mounds. Bake puffs 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F. Continue to bake until puffs are firm and beginning to crack and dry on top, about 23 minutes longer. Transfer puffs to rack. Using small knife or chopstick, poke hole in side of each puff near bottom to allow steam to escape. Cool puffs completely.
Spoon pastry cream into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain round tip. Pipe into each puff through hole in side.
Place 10 ounces chocolate in small microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 15-second intervals until beginning to melt; stir glaze until completely melted and smooth.
Dip bottom of 4 filled cream puffs into glaze. Arrange puffs, spaced about 1/4 inch apart, in square on plate. Dip bottom of 3 more puffs into glaze. Arrange in triangle atop first 4 puffs, pressing slightly so glaze holds puffs in place. Dip bottom of 1 more puff into glaze; place on top. Drizzle mound of puffs with some of glaze. Repeat with remaining cream puffs, forming 8 desserts. Refrigerate until glaze sets and holds puffs together, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Once again, if you don't feel like creating this yourself, you may be able to order it at your favorite bakery (French or otherwise). You can also use pre-made creampuffs!
Photo: Bake Decorate Celebrate