Classic French Croquembouche

croquembouche tower

Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

  • Total: 4 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Cook: 105 mins
  • Freeze Pastry and Chill Cream : 3 hrs
  • Servings: 24 to 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
366 Calories
16g Fat
50g Carbs
7g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24 to 16
Amount per serving
Calories 366
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 9g 44%
Cholesterol 172mg 57%
Sodium 128mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 35g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 50mg 4%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 96mg 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. The sweet, crisp pastries are composed of many small choux filled with cream and are towered one on top of the other and glued with sugar caramel until an impressive cone of pastries becomes the finished dessert. Sugared almonds decorate our recipe, but modern versions are often made with creative pastry cream flavors and then ornated 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 tackle the whole making and assembling 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 make and have the choux completely cooled before filling. When the choux are filled, you can refer to them as completed profiteroles.

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 24 to 16 servings. A digital thermometer is a good tool to have at 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 (room temperature)

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Choux:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 8 large eggs (room temperature)

For the Caramel:

  • 2 1/2 cups 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 the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and flour until completely smooth. Reserve.

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

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

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

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

  7. Chill the cream for at least 2 hours before using it.

Make the Choux

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

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

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

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

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

Bake the Choux

  1. Preheat the 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 the profiteroles puff up and turn golden brown, between 30 to 35 minutes.

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

Fill the Choux

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

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

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

Make the Caramel

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

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

  3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to avoid the crystals burning.

  4. Let the 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.

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

  6. Have the filled pastries ready while the caramel is cooling off.

Assemble the Croquembouche

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Enjoy.

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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