Croquembouche ‘Crunchy in the mouth’
Perhaps I made a slight error in judgement regarding the construction of my Croquembouche, a tower of toffee covered pastry balls known as profiterols, or in French, choux. Do you see the teeny-tiny Croquembouche to the far left in the above photo? That’s mine. I think my childhood insecurities of always being the tallest in school has surfaced once again.
The photos below show us briefly how our Croquembouche came together. First, we began by making the base of the tower which is nougatine (cooked sugar and almonds). It all looks fun and pretty but this process of making nougatine or anything that consists of caramel is seriously dangerous business. Cooked sugar caramalised is so hot that touched if can remove your skin faster than you can blink. I think as patissiers this is for us what knives are for cuisiniers. Otherwise, once cooled it’s all very tasty, the caramel nougatine that is.
To make the base, once the nougatine is ready use a metal rolling pin (no photo) to flatten out the nougatine rolling it out on an iron baking tray (on a pile of 3 baking trays). Then with a cloth push the nougatine into the iron cake tin. You need to work fast but ooh so carefully. You don’t want to burn yourself, nor do you want to break the nougatine as it cools superfast, and at the same time you want to perfectly shape the nougatine to the tin. If it doesn’t work for you like it didn’t for me, you then need to collect the nougetine and put it in the oven to melt, then redo the process again with the rolling pin. I had to redo this process three times. Part of the nougatine is also used to make shapes in which you’ll use to decorate your nougatine base and decorative pieces. However, making the decorative pieces, shapes such as triangles, circles and moon shapes were less challenging.
Croquembouche, which is made of individual profiterols (choux) are normally filled with a flavoured pastry cream (vanilla, chocolate). In this exercise we did not include pastry cream as the goal of this class was to practice working with the nougatine, decorating and most importantly constructing the tower. The decoration included pastillage, that is the shaping of flowers and leaves out of confectionary sugar. It also included using Royal Icing which is usually used for writing on cakes but in this case we used it to make those spider-webs you see.
This whole exercise was challenging and stressing, at least for me. Of course I will need a lot more practice. It’s a great learning experience but I’m not sure I see myself making this in the future by choice. As much as I love pastry, I’m not exactly passionate about making Croquembouche – it’s the pastillage I’m not a fan of and nougatine shape making – but perhaps if I see something that’s a little more modern I can be convinced otherwise.
Finalement c’est la fin de la semaine, profitez-en et bon weekend.