Classic French Croquembouche

croquembouche tower

Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

Prep: 2 hrs 45 mins
Cook: 105 mins
Freeze Pastry and Chill Cream : 5 hrs
Total: 9 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 16 to 24 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
177 Calories
12g Fat
13g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16 to 24
Amount per serving
Calories 177
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 75mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 40mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 85mg 2%
*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.)

The soaring and beautiful pastry confection known as a croquembouche or croque en bouche is a French dessert often served at weddings, baptisms, communions, and many other special celebrations. Sweet, crisp, cream-filled pastries made of choux are towered one on top of the other and held together with sugar caramel until an impressive cone of pastries becomes the finished dessert. Sugared almonds decorate our recipe, but modern versions feature creative pastry cream flavors and are adorned with flowers, sugar art, or melted chocolate. Its French name means "crunch in the mouth," a good summary of what it feels like to bite into a piece of this dessert.

The components of the dessert can be made on different days if you don't want to prep, bake, and assemble in one session. Prepare your choux pastry and vanilla pastry cream and refrigerate for up to three days. Bake, cool off the pastries, fill with cream, and assemble. If you decide to make everything on the day of the event, give yourself enough time to chill the pastry cream for 2 hours and then freeze the filled profiteroles for another 3 hours, not to mention all the other steps.

Once the tower is assembled, you'll have five to eight hours for the pastry to keep its crispness. The towers can vary in size, but expect that you'll be serving two to three profiteroles per person; our recipe makes 48 profiteroles total, for 16 to 24 servings. A digital thermometer is a good tool to have on hand when making this dessert, as well as enough room in your freezer to fit the finished profiteroles.

Ingredients

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Choux:

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Caramel:

  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup water

For Assembling:

  • Sugared almonds, or metallic dragées, or flowers

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this croquembouche is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Pastry Cream

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a ceramic bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and flour until completely smooth. Reserve.

  3. Warm milk over low heat until it begins to steam.

  4. Once milk is steaming, add half of it to egg mixture in bowl, whisking continuously to mix and prevent eggs from curdling. Mix well.

  5. Add milk and egg mixture back into hot milk in saucepan, stirring constantly. Heat until custard is thick and reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer, or 1 to 2 minutes.

  6. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir well and place in a ceramic bowl.

  7. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill cream for at least 2 hours before using.

Make the Choux

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Combine butter and water in a large saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Bring mixture to a boil.

  3. Lower heat and add flour, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Add salt and keep mixing over heat to dry out dough, 4 to 5 minutes. By continuing to cook dough, you're guaranteeing that the final dough will crisp up and puff when baked, forming a hollow center in the middle.

  4. Remove from heat and transfer dough to a large, clean bowl. Using an electric whisk, break dough apart to lower its temperature. Whisk between 2 to 4 minutes.

  5. Beat eggs into dough one at a time until you have a smooth and shiny batter.

  6. Spoon prepared choux dough into a piping bag. At this stage, you can place the bag in fridge overnight—or for up to three days—or immediately pipe choux onto baking trays.

Bake the Choux

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Pipe 24 small rounds on each baking sheet, about 2 inches in diameter.

  3. Bake until profiteroles puff up and turn golden brown, between 30 to 35 minutes.

  4. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before filling.

Fill the Choux

  1. Spoon chilled pastry cream into a bag fitted with a plain tip.

  2. Insert tip into underside of each puff and pipe about 1 teaspoon of pastry cream into hollow center.

  3. Repeat process until you've filled all of the pastries. Place filled profiteroles in freezer for at least 3 hours.

Make the Caramel

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Have a large bowl of iced water ready for cooling the caramel.

  3. Pour sugar into a medium saucepan and then add water. Draw a spoon through sugar to wet it and turn heat up to medium-high.

  4. Bring mixture to a simmer, and wipe down sides of pan with a damp pastry brush to keep crystals from burning.

  5. Let sugar mixture boil until it turns pale golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Pay close attention to the process to prevent burning, as it will rapidly darken toward the end of cooking.

  6. Remove caramel from heat and carefully plunge saucepan into bowl of ice water for 5 seconds to stop cooking process. Allow caramel to cool for 5 to 10 minutes until it has the consistency of maple syrup.

  7. Have filled pastries ready while caramel is cooling.

Assemble the Croquembouche

  1. Line a baking sheet or serving platter with parchment paper.

  2. Dip 12 profiteroles in caramel, one at a time.

  3. Arrange profiteroles in a circle on parchment-lined serving platter, using caramel to "glue" them together.

  4. Continue building croquembouche by dipping and gluing profiteroles on top of base. Follow with a second tier of 10 profiteroles, then one of 9, 7, 4, 3, and 2, respectively, on each tier. Finally, place last profiterole on top to achieve cone shape.

  5. Spin remaining caramel to form a web of sugar around the tower.

  6. Press on sugared almonds, metallic dragées, or flowers for decoration.

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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