Making a cream puff tower wrapped in caramel threads has been on my bucket list for years. It took a push from my pastry chef friend, Jenni, to create this Lemon Cream Croquembouche. Mission accomplished!
Lemon Cream Croquembouche
What exactly is a croquembouche? Literally translated from French, it’s crisp in mouth. Not a lot of help, eh? I’ll continue with the definition from The Food Lover’s Companion: this elaborate dessert is classically made with profiteroles (custard-filled cream puffs), coated with caramel and stacked into a tall pyramid shape.
What is a Croquembouche?
A group of intrepid bloggers, who occasionally like to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, decided to make Valentine’s-themed croquembouche. Traditionally, a croquembouche (French for “Crispy in Mouth”) is a tower of cream puffs filled with vanilla pastry cream and held together with caramelized sugar (the crispy part).
How to Make a Croquembouche
I’ve been making cream puffs for decades, so that component of a croquembouche was not daunting. The gluing of the choux together with caramel to form a cone, then spinning a web of sugar to encase it was another story. But before I started, I had to decide whether to stack the cream puffs free form or use a template on which to glue them.
Hunting through my myriad kitchen supplies for anything cone-shaped, all I could improvise was a large plastic funnel taped on a plate. I whipped up the cream puffs, filled them, and set out to make the caramel.
So, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with how to make cream puffs and caramel before starting your creation. Plus I recommend finding a food-safe cone on which to mount your croquembouche.
Caramel Threads to Finish the Croquembouche
A basic combination of sugar and white sugar formed my caramel. I stirred it a couple of times initially to moisten the sugar, then just let the molten sugar boil, giving it two or three swirls, till the mixture grew amber. Off the heat, I dipped the bottom of the puffs and adhered them to my cone frame.
As the caramel cooled and grew slightly thicker, I dipped in two forks, tapped them together then pulled them apart till fine, wispy threads of sugar formed. Working quickly, I spun them around the cone of choux puffs, forming an ethereal cloud of sugar. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Lemon Filling vs. Pastry Cream
The classic filling the cream puffs in a croquembouche is vanilla pastry cream, but I wanted to shake it up. I whipped some cream and sugar to soft peaks, then added a few tablespoons of tart, citrusy lemon curd.
So fresh and light and a terrific complement to the spun sugar and cream puffs. My lemon Cream Croquembouche was complete! A group of my blogger friends is also sharing their masterpieces today. Please check out their versions of this elaborate French dessert below.
And once you master the cream puff, AKA profiterole or chou à la crème, you’ll have so many desserts and appetizers you can create! I often make Gougeres for an appetizer when entertaining. They’re savory cream puffs flavored with Gruyere cheese! These S’mores Cream Puffs are a summer twist on profiteroles, filled with a toasted marshmallow and a mini milk chocolate bar. And this Cream Puff Dessert avoids having to make individual cream puffs, but the results are an exquisite dessert!
PLUS check out these “croques” from some blogger friends:
- Dulce de Leche Croquembouche from Ansh of Spice Roots
- Chocolate Orange Croquembouche from Laura of Mother Would Know
- Petit Croquembouche Citron Framboise from Stacy of Food Lust, People Love
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 2 cups flour
- 9 eggs, divided (8 for dough, 1 to glaze dough)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon curd
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat oven to 425°. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Bring butter, salt, and 1½ cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Remove pan from heat, add flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes. Return pan to heat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, try dry dough, about 2 more minutes. Let dough cool 5 minutes, then beat in eggs, one at a time, waiting till each is incorporated before adding the next.
- Using a medium sized cookie scoop, dip in water, shaking off excess before scooping out rounds of dough and placing them on the baking sheets one inch apart. Lightly beat remaining egg with a teaspoon of water and brush each piece of dough with it. Bake until puffed and light brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, and continue to bake until well browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
- To make filling, whip cream with 1 tablespoon sugar to soft peaks. Beat in lemon curd to firm peaks. Using a pastry bag with a small tip, poke a hole in the side or bottom of each puff and fill with cream. Keep filled puffs cool while preparing caramel.
- Place sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, till the sugar turns light amber. Remove from heat.
- If you have a cone form, cover it with non-stick paper so caramel will not adhere to form. Place cone on serving plate. One at a time, dip the sides of the cream puffs in caramel and starting from the bottom, make a circle of puffs using the caramel as glue to adhere to the cone. Top the bottom layer of cream puffs with a smaller circle of cream puffs and continue till you can place one cream puff on top.
- By this time, the caramel will have thickened slightly. It should be the consistency of honey. Dip 2 forks into the caramel and cover the tines with the syrup. Tap the tines together and then pull apart repeatedly till threads of sugar develop. Quickly move the treads to the cone of puffs and wrap it around the cone. Repeat numerous times till you cover the exterior with a web of sugar threads.
- Serve within 4 hours.