Another Tick on My Kitchen To Dos

For our wedding in Portugal, my mom-in-law arranged for croquembouche as our wedding cake. Croquembouche simply is profiteroles strung with caramel spun sugar, mounted into a structural center piece of a cone shape, typically served in important celebrations in French culture, such as weddings or baptism. I’m sure many of you know what profiterole is, even if you’re not familiar with its french name. It’s also known as cream puff or in Indonesia, kue sus. These days, you can easily find a croquembouche done with macaroons, instead of profiteroles.

My success rate in making profiteroles are 1 out of 3. Not so bad: two grand failures out of three attempts. But at least I think I know where my pain points are now. I think I have figured it all out. And I think four might be my lucky number.

I learned that if my batter, when piped into little mounds, can stand on its own means they are at the right denseness. I learned that the water/butter mixture needs to be really boiling. I learned that profiteroles and pronto are like oxymorons. This is not a recipe for when you are in a rush. But if you have a mixer and the due diligence to follow the recipe, this is extremely easy to do.

Profiteroles and eclairs are done with the same dough, pâte à choux. The difference, according to H, is that eclairs are long, dipped/ covered with chocolate, while profiteroles are typically round and doused with caramel. Both are traditionally filled with cream custard, though it is becoming more common to have profiteroles stuffed with vanilla ice cream in the middle of snowing winter.

If H can conjure up his version of profiterole, this would be it. Thick custard cream and caramel sauce.

Forenote: The dough can be done and baked a day in advance. Kept in a ziplock, it will stay crisp for a day. The custard cream can be done in advance and can stay in fridge up to 3 days. The caramel has to be done on the day. It is said that once filled, the profiteroles stay crisp for up to 4 hours on room temperature, before they turn soggy.

yield 20 profiteroles

(a) The dough: Choux Pastry (pâte à choux)
(source: Joy of Baking)

1/2 C (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C (57 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 C (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • Preheat oven to 205 C (400 F) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
  • Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two).
  • Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough.
  • Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick sticky paste.
  • Spoon or pipe to 20 mounds (or 12 mounds for a larger version). Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 177 C (350 F). Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside.
  • Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Cool before filling.

(b) The Custard Cream
(source: Casa Veneracion)

1/2 C white sugar
2 tbsp corn starch + enough all-purpose flour to make 1/3 C.
a generous pinch of salt
2 C milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • In a pan, mix together the first four ingredients. Stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, reaching all edges and bottom until thickened.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Once the milk liquid has thickened, ladle some liquid into the egg yolk to temper it.
  • Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pan, mix, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly, until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Let it cool down and press a cling wrap onto the surface and keep in the fridge up to 3 days.
  • Pipe or scoop onto the cooled choux pastry.

(c) The (Dry) Caramel

120 gr white sugar

  • In a heavy bottom pan, spread out the white sugar to cover all surface and heat it over low heat.
  • Once the edges starts to turn liquid, using spatula to draw a line from the melting edge towards center.
  • Once it turns amber and the sugar has all melted, transfer to a bowl to stop the heating. The caramel is ready to be used.

Note: It took only a split second from ready-to-be used caramel to burnt caramel. You’ll know because they taste and smell burnt. They are darker than normal caramel should be. Making caramel isn’t difficult, but it does take practice and lots of patience. The good news is sugar is cheap!!

I think I’m ready to make coffee eclairs for my dad-in-law 😉


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