CroquembouchePreparation time 4 hours Baking time 25 mins Makes 75 choux buns For the choux buns: 450ml water 150g butter, cubed 180g plain flour, sifted 6 large eggs, beaten For crème patissière: 100g caster sugar 4 large egg yolks 40g corn flour 1 tsp vanilla extract 500ml whole milk 40g butter For the caramel: 300g caster sugar 225ml water For decoration: Edible fresh flowers, washed and dried Method: 1 For the choux buns, preheat the oven to 220˚C/200˚C fan/gas mark 7 and grease three large baking trays. Place the water and butter in a pan and heat until the butter has melted and the water begins to boil. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once then beat vigorously to form a firm paste. Whilst beating continuously with a wooden spoon or electric whisk, gradually add the egg a little at a time until a smooth glossy batter forms and leaves a lasting ribbon trail in the bowl - you may not need all the egg. 2 Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle. Pipe 2cm diameter rounds on the prepared baking trays spaced well apart to allow for spreading – pipe approx 25 rounds per tray to make a total of 75. Aim to keep the rounds the same size so they can be stacked neatly later on. 3 Bake for 10 mins then reduce the temperature to 200˚C/180˚C fan/gas mark 6 and bake for a further 10 mins until crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven one tray at a time and use a knife to make a slit in the side of each bun before returning to the oven for 2 mins to allow the steam to escape from the buns - this will help to prevent them from going soggy. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. 4 For the crème patissière, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, corn flour and vanilla together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Heat the milk in a pan until almost at boiling point. Whilst whisking continuously pour the milk into the egg mixture and continue whisking until fully combined. Pour the mixture into the pan and heat gently whilst whisking continuously until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat, beat in the butter then leave to cool completely. Place the mixture in a large piping bag fitted with a filling tube or plain nozzle and fill each bun through the split in the side. Chill the buns until ready to assemble. 5 For the caramel, place the sugar and water in a large heavy based pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and allow the mixture to boil rapidly but do not stir – this does get extremely hot so handle with care. Watch carefully as the mixture starts to colour, as soon as it becomes a pale golden brown remove from the heat as it will continue to darken once removed from the heat and will easily burn if over cooked. 6 To assemble the croquembouche freehand, you are aiming to make a stack with an external base diameter of 20cm and a height of approx 35cm. Working directly on your serving plate, very carefully dip the choux buns into the caramel one at a time, coating one side - handle with care and use tongs if necessary as the caramel will be very hot. Create a ring of buns on the serving plate allowing the caramel coating to sick the buns together. Repeat the process placing another ring of buns on top of the base buns just slightly smaller in diameter. Stand back and check each layer before progressing to the next, making sure that you are building an even cone shape which is going to reach the correct height. Continue the process, decreasing the diameter on each layer, until you have reached the top. Alternatively, use a cone to assemble the choux buns following the manufacturer’s instructions. 7 To decorate with spun sugar strands, use a fork to lift thin stands from the caramel pan then working rapidly, twist them around the choux buns. For the finishing touch decorate with a few edible flowers. TIP: * If you are not confident working with caramel then approx 400g melted chocolate can be used to stick the buns together instead. * If you want to try this recipe on a smaller scale then use one third of the ingredients which will make enough to serve 6 - serve with chocolate sauce as an easy alternative. * Decorate with sugar almonds or berries as an alternative to edible flowers. As an easy alternative to the caramel, try this delicious hot sauce which serves 6. Place 150ml of double cream and 150g of dark chocolate (low cocoa solids so it’s not too bitter) in a small saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is just warm. Pour over the choux buns and serve! If there’s any left over store in a sealed container in the fridge then gently warm before serving with ice cream or puddings.
Tres chic! This stunning croquembouche centrepiece is much easier than its elegance would suggest. Decorate with flowers and spun sugar to wow your guests.