Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chocolate Croquembouche

Croquembouche, or croque-en-bouche, which directly translated from French means "crunch in the mouth" is essentially a tower of cream puffs stuck together with caramel "glue". It is also sometimes called a choux tree, which is not a shoe tree, but choux referring to the pastry dough that makes the base of cream puffs. Croquembouche is a popular dessert in France and Italy, and is especially common at weddings. This tower can be made as simple or as elaborate as desired, it all depends on how big it is made and how fancily it is decorated, which of course depends on the number of cream puffs used. Any type of cream puffs may be used - large, mini, plain, chocolate; and any type of filling - cream, mousse, fruit, etc. I think a tower with a mixture of plain and chocolate cream puffs would be cool, but traditionally only one flavor is used on each tower. Just google some pictures and you'll find some amazingly pretty creations that will make you drool!

Croquembouche has been on my list of things I would like to make for a while now. I realize that it is somewhat elaborate and tedious, and I thought I would have a good period of time to make it. Turns out I had to complete everything in the span of about forty minutes. No problem, right? Well sort of, since cream puffs need to be cool to be filled with a mousse, and it's difficult to stack warm cream puffs, and they take about twenty minutes to bake. But using some shortcuts, and slightly sacrificing the elaborateness of this dish, I did pull it off with help.

I began immediately with whipping up the cream puff dough and baking it. I made them quite mini so they would bake and cool faster, and were baked within fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, the chocolate mousse was whipped up. Once the cream puffs were baked, they were placed in the freezer to cool as quickly as possible. However, they were still too warm (and too tiny) to fill with the mousse filling (basically chocolate whipped cream), which is why some mousse was piped and piled on top, and beginning to melt a little. Extra mousse was provided for dipping of course. Now to actually assemble the tower. I whipped up some light caramel on the stove, and dipped the cream puffs in the hot caramel so they would stick together. Since the tower was relatively small, only containing about thirty cream puffs or so, I didn't use a cone base for support, and didn't plan out the structure, I just stuck the cream puffs together. Then I drizzled a little extra caramel over top. The picture isn't great, and doesn't really do the mini tower justice, but I am happy with the result considering the time period I had and it being my first attempt at this dessert! 

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