Soundtrack: Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy
There is an impressive French creation known affectionately as the CROQUEMBOUCHE (translation being “crunch in the mouth”). It is a handmade pyramid of varying sizes comprised of caramel dipped, cream filled Profiteroles. Profiteroles are basically what us Americans know as “cream puffs.” The typical Croquembouche is ordered for weddings, birthdays, religious events like a baptism or first holy communion. I do not recall receiving a Croquembouche when I made my communion. Ahhh, the disadvantages of being an American!
The Choux batter, called PATE A CHOUX literally translates to “little cabbage” in French and is one of the only dough’s which is twice cooked. Once on the stovetop to dessécher (dry out) your mixture of flour, water, butter, and salt. Then a second time when shapes are piped out and baked. It was one of my favorite units at FCI as it can be either sweet or savory (ever had a gougéres?). I look forward to working with Karoline in 2 weeks, she is Queen of Pate a Choux at Carratié.
You may be saying to yourself “well, I’ve never heard of pate a choux nor have I tasted it. “ Chances are, if you’ve had a cream filled, chocolate dipped éclair (which means lightning bolt in French), you have encountered the lovely pate a choux batter.
I have only made one croquembouche at FCI, several dozen profiteroles and the same amount of éclairs. Alexi, Carratié’s head pastry chef is a croquembouche master. At school we eyeballed our creations and most of the class ended up with lopsided pyramids, burns from our dipping caramel and bruised egos. Alexi on the other hand, is successful every single time. Here is his fool proof method of constructing the ever beautiful, ever French CROQUEMBOUCHE!
MY FCI CROQUEMBOUCHE DIPPED IN COCOA NIBS, PISTACHIO, COCONUT & CARAMEL (featured above)
Step #1: Have your filled cream puffs ready for a second dipping and ready for construction.
Step #2: Make sure your caramel is warm and an attractive shade of brown. You don’t want anything too dark or light. The longer you cook caramel, the darker it becomes and has a tendency to burn.
Step #3: Have a metal funnel lined with wax or parchment paper handy. This will ensure a perfect, non-lopsided pyramid. Why didn’t they teach us this at FCI?
Step #4: Begin to construct!
Step #5: Continue to work on it.
Step #6: Take pride in a fine piece of baked art!