I have to share with you what I had for breakfast the other day:
Mmm… Croquembouche! It didn’t look quite as fabulous as this one, and the morning after the party it actually looked more like this:
But I think I enjoyed it even more sneaking leftovers out of the fridge to go with my morning coffee! Lots of choux pastry puffs filled with vanilla custard and stuck together with spun sugar, which became a bit gooey overnight in the fridge, but still edible in my book! But then I have been known to consume sweetened condensed milk straight from the tin.
When I asked my son what sort of birthday cake he would like, he asked for Croquembouche. This was a few days after the final of Masterchef, where the finalists had to make one of these elaborate French wedding cakes as part of their challenge. The things you do for love…
I used this recipe, but halved the quantities, because my croquemboche didn’t need to feed a whole wedding party, just a family of three. And I used an ordinary metal bowl instead of the traditional pyramid because, let’s be honest, I don’t have one. (Do you?!). On Masterchef they were allowed three hours to complete their challenge, I allowed myself a leisurely six.
The choux pastry puffs went well – I have made them a few times in the past, and even remember learning the technique way back in Home Economics at school. Despite halving the recipe, I still ended up with about 100 puffs!
But homemade custard was a new experience for me. As I was dutifully following the instructions and “stirring it over a medium heat” I could feel the custard thickening on the bottom of the pan, and then eventually I saw some ghastly lumps!! However I continued to stir, and it continued to thicken rapidly, and with a few quick stirs it became perfectly glossy and smooth – I couldn’t believe my luck. So if you try this – have faith, and don’t bin it too soon!
You need to pipe the custard into the puffs, and then stick them to the inside of the bowl with toffee. Admittedly, some parts collapsed when I removed it from the mould – but nothing a bit more toffee could not fix! I had to make 3 batches of the toffee – the first set in the pan as I stuck the puffs into the mould, the second set as I started the fun and games with the spun sugar, and the third finally allowed me to finish everything off. I have always wanted a sugar thermometer, and this day I needed it!
Even though I forgot all about the very-important-strawberry-touch, it looked pretty good. Our 11 year old was very impressed, and informed me that I was the best Mum in the world – which of course made the whole rigmarole worth it 🙂