It’s time for another First on the First! You may have noticed that April and May 1 came and went with no posts. Why? Blame it on runny banana pudding, un-flakey sfogilatelle, and my commitment not to post anything I’m not 100% confident you can replicate in your own kitchen.
The challenge for June was croquembouche. After doing a little research, I learned it’s a French dessert, translating roughly to “crunch in the mouth”. Often served at weddings and baptisms, croquembouche is made using vanilla cream-filled pate a choux pastry (translation: cream puffs). Traditionally arranged into a cone and held together with caramel, it can also be covered in chocolate (yes, please!). The final product may be decorated with candy, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons.
They say the third time’s a charm, but having failed two months in a row, I wasn’t taking any chances and called in reinforcements. First, I sought out the big guns — Mom — for help with my pate a choux. With significant cream puff experience and a flawless recipe, I knew I was in good shape.
I’ve also learned a few tips in my baking days that came in handy:
1. To keep the parchment paper from moving around while piping the pastry dough, pipe a small amount under each corner of the paper.
2. When making pate a choux, the old-fashioned way is best. Use a wooden spoon (not an electric mixer) to stir the dough and pour the eggs in one at a time from a liquid measuring cup.
3. Using a wet finger, slightly flatten the tops of the piped dough to form round puffs.
4. For “puffier” puffs, refrigerate the dough before baking!
5. The best way to fill a pasty bag is to fold over the top and place one hand under the fold to scrape the spoon or spatula against.
6. Cutting the tip of a small squeeze bottle and finding a natural soft spot in the pastry dough makes filling the puffs so much easier! It also ensures that you can hold the puff and feel when it’s getting full.
But one thing kept bothering me as I prepared the dessert — the shape! During my research, I came across this recipe for a Christmas Croquembouche, and suddenly all I saw was a Christmas tree. Baking at the shore and kicking off the summer, reminders of a favorite holiday symbol wasn’t sitting well. Time to confer with the creative consultant — Dad — for help making my dessert look as good as it tasted and finding a shape that was more seasonally appropriate and fun to photograph.
Without further ado, I’m happy to present my (non-traditional but successful!) croquembouche, perhaps more appropriately called “Poisson Sucre”. (To see other croquembouche attempts and victories, click on the blog hop link at the bottom of this post!)
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