This is my first attempt at making choux pastry and I was pleasantly surprised with the way it turned out. Ever since I set the challenge I've been trying to decide what to make with choux pastry. I thought that as I set the challenge I should take the opportunity to push myself to do something a little bit more complicated than I would normally do.
I think the first time I had ever come across croquembouche was watching the Australian version of Master Chef a couple of years ago where the contestants had to make a huge one as one of the final challenges. I've also seen them on the Great British Bake Off as well and I've always thought that because they look so impressive they must be difficult to make. Well yesterday I was feeling brave. I did think about doing éclairs or profiteroles but my boyfriend and I don't agree on chocolate. He likes milk chocolate and I like dark chocolate and I didn't want to faff around melting 2 lots of chocolate as I was only baking for the 2 of us. So instead I decided to go for caramel and that's where the croquembouche idea came from. I admit I didn't look at any recipes for this I just based it on what I'd remembered seeing on TV.
For the choux pastry I used the recipe from Larousse Gastronmique Desserts, Cakes and Pastries which is here on the Classic French challenge page for September. Making the pastry was surprisingly easy, the difficult part was the piping. I don't have much experience using a piping bag so the buns that I made came out a little wonky. They make it look so easy on TV but piping into perfect rounds does take a bit of skill which I have yet to master.
I ended up making 24 fairly large choux buns, they puffed up more than I thought they would, and stashed half of them in the freezer for a quick future dessert. Then with the remaining 12 I made the croquembouche for us to share. This may be a bit extravagant but it was Sunday yesterday and as my boyfriend has been doing late shifts all week whilst I've been working normal hours, it means that I've barely seen him all week. Also I'm going to a conference today so I'll be away for 3 nights and I think a fancy dessert helps to compensate for this.
To make the croquembouche I whipped 150ml double cream and piped it into the buns, this stage was quite easy. Whilst filling the buns I also made some caramel, I'm afraid I didn't measure the amount of sugar and water I used as I only wanted a small amount. I think I probably used about 50g of caster sugar and just enough water to cover the sugar in a small saucepan. This was also the first time I made caramel and I think I took it off the heat just in time. I dipped the base of each bun into the caramel and then attempted to stack them artistically on a plate. This would have been easier if I'd made the buns a more even shape, but I still got a small tower out of them.
This my entry into my Classic French challenge