Sunday, December 13, 2009

Croquembouche with Rum Vanilla Buttercream Filled Profiteroles

A croquembouche is a tower of cream puffs held together with caramel. In France it is the traditional cake for weddings, baptisms or communions. Croquembouche comes from the French "croquant" meaning crackling and "bouche" for mouth. Thus croquembouche refers to the crackling in your mouth when eating this traditional dessert. There was really none of that crackling going on with mine, because of the inclement weather sort of melting the caramel I had so lovingly made and layered on the cake. :(

The croquembouche obsession started when I was watching a show on Bravo last week (Chef's Academy) on which the chef taught his students how to make one. I wanted to make something really special for the food blogger's potluck yesterday. I also wanted it so serve entry for the John Mayer Interfaith Baking Contest II. So, I decided to make this croquembouchethingamabob.

It starts out with making tons of little profiteroles (as pictured above). The dough is super easy to make. Here is the recipe I used (since I won't be sharing the filling recipe). (I doubled it and made about 50-60 puffs).

2 cups water
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 cups flour
8 to 10 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated.

Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 6 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375-degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

While everything was cooling, I began working on adornments for the cake... numerous fondant pearls and this candy heart (below), which is how my cake ties into John Mayer. It is the logo seen on the Battle Studies album and used to activate the augmented reality video for "Heartbreak Warfare".

Fondant pearls rolled in lustredust...

I filled each profiterole with a buttercream (secret recipe, but will tell you I threw in the contents of 1 1/2 vanilla beans and a few tablespoons of Bacardi light rum to pimp out my normal buttercream recipe). The puffs of a croquembouche are traditionally filled with pastry cream or sweetened whipping cream, but I thought rum vanilla buttercream would make the cake last a little longer and taste better. I am not a whipped cream fan, except for maybe on ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Here it is with everything but the spun sugar in place. I waited until Sunday (day of potluck to do that).

Below are some side views:

Fondant candy canes and flowers. I had a lot of fun shaping all the decorations.

And finally with the caramel. The recipe is 1/3 cup water, 1 1/4 cups sugar. It takes a long time so be patient. If you boil the caramel too fast, it will crust over and ruin. If you cook the caramel too long and don't cool it in an ice bath, it will turn a dark amber and taste very bad. Otherwise, if you do succeed in the caramel making, the spinning around the cake is a lot of fun!!

Merry Christmas & Happy Interfaith Baking...

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