Classic French Croquembouche

Classic French Croquembouche Recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Chill and Assembly : 2 hrs
Total: 4 hrs
Servings: 60 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
114 Calories
5g Fat
17g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 60
Amount per serving
Calories 114
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 30mg 10%
Sodium 48mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 14mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 24mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A croquembouche, French for “crunch in the mouth”, is a cone-shaped tower of cream puffs bound together by caramel. It was invented in the late 1700s by French pastry chef Antoine Carême. Originally served only on the medieval tables of French royalty and nobility, it is now traditionally served at French weddings, baptisms, and christenings. The cream puffs can be filled with various whipped creams and ganaches, but this version goes the classic route of vanilla pastry cream.

Ingredients

For the Choux:

  • 2 cups water

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 10 to 12 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 5 tablespoons butter

For the Caramel:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

Steps to Make It

Make the Choux

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  2. In a large pot bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a boil.

  3. Turn the heat off, add the flour, and stir using a wooden spoon.

  4. Turn the heat back on over medium-high heat and continue to stir until it comes together like a ball, and a thin crust develops at the bottom of the pan.

  5. Turn the dough out into a tabletop mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Paddle the dough on medium-high speed to release the steam.

  6. Once the steam is gone, add the eggs one at a time allowing the dough to come back together before adding the next.

  7. After the 10th egg, check the batter. You should be able to draw a line through it with your finger and have it slowly fill in on itself. If it’s too dry, add another egg and test again. If it’s still too dry, add the final egg.

  8. Prepare a piping bag with a half-inch circle tip. Fill the piping bag with the batter.

  9. Prepare 3 cookie sheet trays by piping a small dot of batter on each corner. Then line with parchment paper. This will prevent the parchment paper from flying up in the oven.

  10. Pipe 1 1/2-inch mounds by holding the pastry bag vertically, a half-inch away from the paper, and gently squeezing without moving the piping bag. When you reach the desired size, quickly twist and flick the piping bag so you have more of a flat top than a peak.

  11. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 F and continue to bake for another 35 minutes or until the puffs are well browned and cooked through.

  12. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Make the Pastry Cream

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla extract.

  3. Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high until scalding.

  4. Slowly pour the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Return the liquid to the pot and continue to whisk and heat over medium-high until it starts to bubble and thicken. Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter.

  5. Pour the mixture into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap directly on top to prevent it from forming a skin. Place the entire bowl over an ice bath to cool. Once it is not too hot, place in the fridge to chill completely.

  6. Once the pastry cream is cold, place it into a tabletop mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Paddle the pastry cream until smooth and place into a piping bag fitted with a 1/3-inch circle piping tip.

Fill the Cream Puffs

  1. Once the puffs have completely cooled, use a small paring knife to poke and twist small holes at the bottom of each one.

  2. Insert the tip of the piping bag filled with pastry cream into the hole and squeeze until it feels heavy. Repeat with all the puffs.

Assemble the Cone Structure

  1. Take a large sheet of poster board or construction paper and roll it into a cone. The cone should be 18 inches high with a 6-inch base. Cut off any excess at the bottom so it stands up like a party hat. Cover the cone with a piece of parchment paper and tape it shut.

  2. Heavily spray the parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside on top of a serving plate.

Make the Caramel

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the sugar and water in a small clean saucepan, stir and wash down any sugar crystals stuck on the sides of the pot with your fingers.

  3. Place the pan on medium-high heat and cook until the caramel is light golden brown in color.

  4. Remove from heat and dip the tops of each cream puff into the caramel and place on the side of the cone starting at the bottom. Repeat and continue to build around each layer before moving upwards. You can also dip one side of the puff in a little caramel to stick it to the next one.

  5. Once the whole tower is built and cooled, carefully pick up the whole thing and remove the paper cone from the center. Place the croquembouche on a serving platter and enjoy!

Tips

  • If the puffs have little peaks before baking, try dipping your finger in some milk or egg white to smooth it out.
  • The puffs should be totally hard and medium brown in color. Bake it longer if it’s still soft.
  • Make sure everything else is ready before making the caramel.
  • The caramel will thicken and harden the cooler it gets. If it starts getting too thick, you can try reheating it a little, but if it starts getting too dark, it’s better to start over and make more until you are done assembling.
  • This recipe makes 60 cream puffs which are enough for a 6-inch base and 18-inch high cone.
  • The croquembouche can be decorated with caramel threads, candied almonds, flowers, etc. The cream puffs can also be dipped in pearl sugar after the caramel for an added crunch and pretty aesthetic.
  • Unfilled puff shells can be frozen for up to 3 months, but must be completely defrosted, then refreshed in the oven until toasty again before filling.
  • The croquembouche should be enjoyed the day of assembly, as the cream puffs will not retain their crunchiness as time passes.

How Do You Cut a Croquembouche?

If you research how to cut a croquembouche, the word "sword" will be the first to appear, followed by "mallet." It was thought to bring bad luck to use a knife when cutting a croquembouche, but times have changed and knives are easier to come by than sharp swords. The way you cut it also depends on the size of the tower.


To cut your tower, you can:

  • Use a sharp knife to disassemble the tiers and cut two to three profiteroles per person if you're serving a formal event.
  • Encourage your guests to pull the profiteroles by hand, two to three per person, if you're serving a casual event or family gathering.

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