Recipe provided by Saveur
A croquembouche is a tower of cream puffs held together with caramel. In France it is the traditional cake for weddings, baptisms or communions.
French for "crisp in mouth," this elaborate dessert is classically made with profiteroles (tiny, custard-filled cream puffs), coated with caramel and stacked into a tall pyramid shape. As the caramel hardens, it becomes crisp. For added glamour, the croquembouche can be wreathed or draped with spun sugar.
FOR THE PÂTE À CHOUX (DOUGH):
1 1⁄2 cups water
12 tbsp. butter
2 cups flour
FOR THE FILLING:
1 1⁄2 cups milk
1⁄2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1⁄2 tbsp. vanilla extract
16 tbsp. unsalted butter; softened
FOR THE CARMEL:
4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 and 1/4 cups of corn syrup
1. For the pâté à choux: Preheat oven to 425˚. Combine 1 1⁄2 cups water, butter, and 1⁄4 tsp. salt in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, add flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1–2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, allow dough to cool 5 minutes, then vigorously beat in 8 eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated. Dough will come together and be thick, shiny, and smooth, and pull away from sides of pan.
2. Dip two spoons in water, shake off excess, and scoop a walnut-size piece of dough with one spoon. With other spoon, scrape dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet, setting pieces 1" apart on baking sheet. Lightly beat remaining egg with pinch of salt and brush each piece of dough with it. Bake until puffed and light brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350˚ and continue to bake until well browned, about 15 minutes. Allow puffs to cool.
3. For the filling: Bring 1 cup milk and the sugar just to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1⁄2 cup milk, egg yolks, and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Slowly pour half the hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly, then return mixture gradually to milk in pan, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens and just returns to a boil. Stir in vanilla and transfer to a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. In a large bowl, beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add cold filling and beat until smooth, 3–4 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Spoon filling into pastry bag fitted with a plain 1⁄4'' tip. Gently poke a hole with a chopstick in the flat side of each baked, cooled puff. Fill each puff with filling.
4. For the caramel: Divide sugar and water between two shallow saucepans and stir to mix. Cover and cook over medium heat until sugar turns amber, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Reheat caramel when it becomes too thick. (Making caramel in two saucepans will allow you to rewarm half the caramel, keeping it fluid).
5. To Assemble: Using tongs or a chocolate-dipping fork, dip top of filled puff in hot caramel. Place puff, glazed side up, on a plastic-lined tray. Form base with 12–14 glazed, cooled puffs, sticking them together with dabs of caramel. Add puffs, layer by layer, to form a hollow cone. Allow caramel to cool slightly, until it is the consistency of honey. With a spoon, drizzle thin strings of caramel around cone.