Showing posts with label royal icing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label royal icing. Show all posts

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Petit Croquembouche Citron Framboise #ValentineCroque

Both an edible centerpiece and a festive celebration, this choux pastry bun turret is filled with fresh lemon custard and held together with crunchy when dried royal icing, thereby fulfilling the croque part of its croquembouche or "crunch in mouth" name. Fresh red raspberries add a burst of color and a wonderful juicy counterpoint to the choux buns and lemon custard.

Traditional croquembouche are tall, tall towers constructed of choux buns filled with vanilla pastry cream and are held together as much by faith and luck as the spun caramelized sugar. When my friend Jenni, from Pastry Chef Online  - of Fearless in the Kitchen fame - challenged me to make one as part of a group event, I signed up in haste and repented in leisure.

I knew that I wouldn’t have the time to make a towering tower. But I have a hard time resisting a challenge, especially one of a baking/food nature. So I thought to myself: How about a small turret? A turret would be totally doable, right? But what about the unattractive and painful sugar burns that are almost always the result of spinning caramelized sugar?  Wouldn’t royal icing work instead? If it can hold together a gingerbread mosque, surely it could cement a few choux buns in place, providing the necessary eponymous crunch in the process. Channeling Jenni and her fearlessness in the kitchen, I plowed ahead. I’ll let you be the judge of the results - it's not the straightest of turrets - but I can tell you that it was delicious.

Come join me and all my croquembouche building friends as we leap outside our comfort zones for your amusement. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom to see all the links. This is a long post because there are three recipes to make and then assemble but you can do it too!

For the lemon custard:
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup or 240ml milk
Zest 1 lemon
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten (Save the white for the royal icing!)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon butter
Plus another teaspoon or so of lemon juice to slightly loosen the custard after chilling, if necessary.

For the choux pastry:
1/4 cup or 50g butter
1/2 cup or 120ml water
1/2 cup or 65g plain flour
1 pinch salt
2 eggs, at room temperature

For the royal icing
1 1/2 cups or 190g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Tiny pinch salt
Pinch cream of tartar

I made the choux buns a couple of days before I needed them and kept them fresh and dry in a Ziploc bag. I read somewhere online that as long as you let them cool completely before bagging, the drier, two-day-old choux buns are actually better for assembling your croquembouche because they stay crisp longer once filled with custard or pastry cream. The custard and royal icing can also be made a couple of days in advance. Just keep them well covered in the refrigerator to prevent them from drying out. Fill the buns and assemble the croquembouche no more than a few hours before serving lest they soften too much and risk collapse.

Lemon Custard Filling
In a small saucepan, not on the stove or with the stove turned off, combine sugar, flour and the pinch of salt. Stir in your milk, a little at a time, whisking until smooth.

Turn on the stove and bring your mixture to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Boil 60 seconds and then pour about a 1/4 cup or 60ml of the hot liquid into the beaten egg yolk while you whisk constantly. This warms the egg yolk so it doesn’t cook when you add it to the saucepan. Now add the heated egg yolk to the saucepan gradually, once again, whisking all the while and then keep stirring until mixture starts to bubble again. Your custard should be quite thick now.

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, zest and butter. Stir well until the butter is melted and the butter and juice are fully incorporated.

Put the custard in a bowl and cover the surface with cling film so a skin doesn’t form on top as it cools. Chill in a refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C and prepare your baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper stuck down with a little non-stick spray or a silicone baking mat.

Choux Pastry Buns
Sift together your flour and a pinch of salt and put it right next to the stove in readiness.

In a medium pot, combine the butter and water and bring to the boil. Pour the flour/salt mixture into the boiling water/butter all at once.

Stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball and pulls right away from the sides. This takes just a minute or two.

Now take the pot off of the stove and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with your wooden spoon in between. It looks like the egg won’t mix in and the dough starts to fall apart but keep mixing and after a couple of minutes of hard labor, the dough comes together again and it’s time to add the second egg.

After both eggs have been added in.

After the last egg has been incorporated into the dough, put it by spoonfuls into a piping bag with a large tip.

Pipe the soft dough on the parchment paper in 1 inch or 2.5cm circles about an equal measure apart from each other.

Poke down any pointy tops with a damp finger.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes then turn the temperature down to 350°F or 180°C and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and poke a hole in one side of each choux bun with a toothpick. This allows the steam to escape and helps the choux bun keep its shape as it cools. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Royal Icing
Sift your icing sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl and add the pinch of salt and cream of tartar.

Beat your egg white until it’s a little frothy and add it along with the lemon juice to the icing sugar.

Mix thoroughly. Cover the icing with cling film to keep it from drying out.

Building the Croquembouche
When you are ready to build your turret, take the custard out of the refrigerator and give it a good stir to loosen it up. Put a test spoonful in your piping bag with a filling tip and see if you can squeeze it out. If it’s too stiff, add one teaspoon of lemon juice to the bowl and stir well to completely incorporate it. Mine was borderline so I decided to just power through and squeeze hard.

Note: The Wilton site says that the filling tip doesn’t work with a coupler but I didn’t read that until after, so I made it work with a coupler. It wasn’t easy but I got that sucker all screwed together properly. Amazing what one can do when one doesn’t know one can’t.

Fill your piping bag with the lemon custard. Use the filling tip to poke a bigger hole in the choux buns where you put the toothpick to let the steam out. I ended up with 7 oz by volume or 240g, which was enough to fill 19 of my 21 buns. I used 17 of those in the croquembouche.

Put your royal icing in a piping bag with a small round tip. I used the Wilton #3. Pipe some icing onto your plate in a circle to anchor the filled choux buns.

My bottom layer had only six in a circle initially but then I realized as I built up that one in the center of the bottom was needed for structural integrity so the layers are as follows, with royal icing between, under and on top of each:

Bottom – seven choux buns

2nd layer – five choux buns

Leave the croquembouche to set for about 20-30 minutes at this point, in a cool, dry place, which allows the royal icing to harden.

3rd layer – four choux buns

Top – one choux bun

Use the royal icing to fill small gaps between the choux buns and drizzle decoratively, generously, on the outside.

Allow to dry for a further 20-30 minutes, or longer.  When you are ready to serve the croquembouche, stick the raspberries on the reasonably horizontal bits with more royal icing. You can get them to stick to the sides if you have time to hold each one on till the icing hardens but I am guessing ain’t nobody got time for that.

Enjoy! Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

If you are looking for inspiration for Valentine’s Day, start with this great link list of croquembouche. There’s even a savory version for those who aren’t crazy about sweets.

Welcome to our Valentine Croquembouche Challenge (#ValentineCroque). We are a group of intrepid bloggers who occasionally like to push ourselves well out of our comfort zone to meet baking challenges fearlessly.

We are here to show you that you do not always have to be bound by tradition, so we created croquembouche that adhere to the spirit of the dish if not the actual letter. You’ll find all sorts of combinations of flavors here (including a savory version) that will hopefully expand your idea of croquembouche. Not all of our croques were wildly successful, but we all learned something, and we all pushed ourselves. Besides, blogging shouldn’t always be about aspirational and often unobtainable Pinterest moments. It should also be about the near misses and the journey we take when we take a chance. Thanks for joining us today.

If you’re interested in participating in future challenges, please contact Jenni.

Follow our Valentine Croquembouche Pinterest Board for more Croquembouche inspiration.

Going with French tradition, I served the croquembouche for my dear mother-in-law's 81st birthday dessert, instead of cake. And for family, here's two shots of the birthday girl enjoying her treat.