Saturday, January 8, 2011

Better Late Than Never: Christmas Croquembouche

What is croquembouche?

Besides being an incredible word (pronounced, “croak-ohm-boosh”) that I could never get enough of saying, croquembouche is a mountainous French dessert. Bound together with sticky caramel, rows of creampuffs are stacked to form a delicious pastry pyramid that is usually decorated with chocolate or webs of spun sugar.

Such a showpiece of a dessert is reserved for occasions that call for celebration. Traditionally, Croquembouche is served at French weddings either on its own, or on top of a regular tiered cake. They can be as tall as the ceiling or as small as an individual portion. Croquembouche is especially great for Christmas time because it looks like a tree.

I don’t remember what it was that sparked it, but it was all the way back in the summer when I decided that I wanted to make a Christmas Croquembouche. I wrote the word down on a piece of paper and it stayed on my desk until December. I had envisioned walking into my aunt and uncle’s house with a Croquembouche tall enough to cover my face.

In real life, it wasn’t nearly as big, but it was just as pretty and I couldn’t have been more proud to have accomplished my little goal.



I follwed this recipe by Food Network as a guide for the pate a choux, aka cream puff pastries. I have to say, I thought it was a really well-explained recipe for pate a choux, which can be a little tricky sometimes. It was practically seamless. I used my CIA Baking and Pastry cookbook for the pastry cream that I filled them with, and added Nutella to give the cream a little chocolate-hazelnut flavor.

As for the caramel “glue,” I really don’t know what the hell it is about anything caramel, but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me. A simple formula of 2 ½ cups of sugar to 2/3 cups of water boiled until golden, and I could barely get it right. It took two batches and a nice burn ring on our wooden kitchen table until I got something decent. One of these days I’ll get it right.


Croquembouche literally translates to “crunch in the mouth,” and between the pate a choux and caramel candy spun around it, that is exactly what it does. I also decorated mine with red and green M & M’s to make it a little more Christmassy. Everyone really liked it, and my pretty pastry pyramid looked so nice on the table!

P.S. After Victoria showed them on her blog, Mission: Food, I had to visit the holiday window display at Barney’s this year. The theme was, “Have a Foodie Holiday” and they featured celebrity chefs! The windows were divided by women, innovators, and my favorite--a food fight among the men. Here are a few photos. And yeah, I don’t know why the women are all wearing snuggies.


15 comments:

Stephanie said...

I love these desserts! Haven't made one since pastry school and every year I say I'll do one. Yours looks great with the candies, perfect little puffs, and caramel strings (luckily no hand burns!). Thanks for sharing.

Sandra said...

Cream puffs together with caramel..Oh my..that sounds like real deal dessert!:) Looks phenomenal!!

Koci said...

That croquembouche is so beautiful!! I bet your family was thrilled to see that yummy treat on the table. Caramel's always a bit of a pain, but it looks like you did a great job wrangling it! :D

Fashion Meets Food said...

I have always wanted to make this. Looks so good and is absolutely adorable.

xo

Magic of Spice said...

Your croquembouche looks so festive and delicious...
These desserts definitely are show stoppers, but I am afraid I would never attempt, but yours is gorgeous!

Claudia said...

Until my daughter announced we needed to make a buche de noel for Christmas, I had decided on croquembouche even though caramel scares me. (Martha Stewart says to go into a garage fling crystallized sugar on the pastries). Yours look stunning - festive and I wish I had some.

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Just gorgeous! I've never made one myself, but I love to eat them! ;)

Rosemary said...

A definite stunner and worth the wait! Maybe if I start thinking about it now, I can do one for Christmas too!

Mother Rimmy said...

I love the word and the dessert! What a pretty, pretty presentation!

Monet said...

How beautiful...and I just love saying this word. I would make the dessert just so I would have an excuse to repeat it again and again :-) Thank you for you for sharing this tower of sweetness, and thank you for your kind words on my blog. They mean so much!

Dina said...

very pretty. looks yummy. i thought it was struffoli at first.

The Mom Chef said...

Geez, I'm jealous. I tried a croquembouche and it was an absolute failure. I mean at every level. Yours turned out gorgeous. Many congratulations on success!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Fantastic croquembouche. I could really go for some right about now.

~Lisa~ said...

What a great dessert! I love cream puffs and slathered in caramel sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

Kristen said...

My family loves cream puffs, but I have never attempted to put them into such a spectacular dessert like a croquembouche. Yours turned out magnificently.