The personal stories and adventures of a nerdy food lover.

A tribute to Bastille Day: The croquembouche

Today, being the 14th of July marks Bastille Day, a French national holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution. Being a massive Francophile, I couldn’t let today go by without making something Frenchy inspired. I wanted to make something that was as much of a celebration as Bastille Day itself, and nothing encompasses a celebration better than the croquembouche! Now, if you’ve seen the Australian version of Masterchef, there was a pressure test involving an Adriano Zumbo croquembouche back in 2009 that looked like an absolute nightmare to make. I didn’t dare attempt to recreate that monster stack of choux puffs, instead, I made a petit croquembouche filled with crème patissiere and spun sugar for decoration. So, happy Bastille Day to all that celebrate this historic day, and may you all get to fill up on some yummy French pastries! You could probably serve 4 people with the petite croqembouche, depending on how many choux puffs you use.

Bastille Day Petit Croquembouche
125g plain flour
1½ tsp caster sugar
60g unsalted butter
150ml water
3-4 eggs, lightly whisked

Crème patissiere
1 cup (250ml) milk
300ml pure (thin) cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 egg yolk
150g caster sugar
2 tbs plain flour, sifted
1 tbs cornflour, sifted

500g caster sugar
½ cup (175g) glucose syrup
1 cup (250ml) water

Start off by making the crème patissiere. Place the milk, cream and vanilla paste into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until thick and pale. Add the flours, then the cream mixture and stir until combined. Transfer to a clean saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until it becomes really thick. This should take about 5 minutes, depending on how low you have the heat. Transfer the crème patissiere into a heatproof bowl. Cover the surface with some baking paper to prevent a skin forming on the top. Cool to room temperature, then chuck it in the fridge to chill.

Heat milk, cream and vanilla paste Egg yolks and sugar Whisk egg yolks and suagar until pale Whisk cream mixture and egg mixture over medium heat until thick Transfer creme patissiere to a bowl and cover with baking paper

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture just starts to come to the boil. Remove from heat. Add the flour/sugar mixture into the saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon. Place the saucepan back over a medium heat, and stir until the mixture comes away from the side of the saucepan. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. To assist cooling, spread the mixture out over the bottom of the saucepan. Once cooled, transfer mixture to a bowl and use an electric beater to incorporate the whisked eggs 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition until the mixture is thick and glossy. Don’t be tempted to add the eggs in, all in one go, because your mixture could end up being too runny and won’t rise when baked.

Heat butter and water until almost boiling Beat in flour until mixture comes off side of pan Add eggs gradually until dough is thick and glossy

Transfer the choux dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Pipe 40×1.5cm balls onto the trays 3cm apart. You may not end up using all of the choux puffs when constructing the croquembouche, but it’s better to have too many than not enough. Sprinkle the trays with some water – this will help the choux puffs to rise. Shove the trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the choux puffs are puffed up and golden. Turn the oven off, pull the trays out and pierce the side of each choux puff with the tip of a knife to release the steam. Whack the trays back into the oven, leaving the door ajar, to dry the choux puffs out. I left them in the oven for about 30 minutes, then pulled the trays out of the oven again so they could completely cool.

Pipe balls onto tray Bake for 20 minutes

To make the toffee, place the sugar, glucose syrup and water into a saucepan over low heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is light golden. The sugar mixture can take between 10-15 minutes to change colour, but keep an eye on it, because the time it takes to change from a light golden colour to being burnt is not much! Remove from heat.

Dissolve sugar and glucose syrup Simmer until light golden colour

To assemble the croquembouche, use a piping back to fill the choux puffs with crème patissiere. Dip one side of each choux puff in the toffee and arrange in a cone shape, using the toffee to stick the puffs together.

To decorate with spun sugar, lay some baking paper on a work surface. Dip 2 forks into the leftover toffee, then hold them with one hand with the backs of the forks facing each other. Working really quickly, so the toffee doesn’t harden before you make the spun sugar, flick the forks back and forth from a height over the baking paper so it makes long toffee threads. Then quickly drape the spun sugar over the croquembouche.

Assemble croquembouche using toffee and drape over spun sugar as decoration

Note: I didn’t stray too far off the original recipe, but I did make some changes to the method. If you would like to see the original recipe, click here.

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23 thoughts on “A tribute to Bastille Day: The croquembouche

  1. I’ve been in France on le quatorze juillet a few times, but I don’t remember seeing this. It looks great and you’ve described lots of impeccable baking technique. I haven’t made puffs often, and didn’t know about the trick to let the steam escape. The one step I hate about making puffs is stirring in the eggs, and someone advised me to use a stand mixer for that. I have yet to try that…

    • Thanks Stefan! I think the croquembouche is more for weddings, birthdays etc. I just thought because today was a special day on the French calendar, I would make something that was a bit special but not necessarily typical. I would definitely use mechanical means to beat in the eggs for the choux dough because it is hard work doing it by hand!

  2. Now this post brings back memories. I made Adriano Zumba’s Masterchef Croquembouche in 2009. Twice in quick succession and then not again. I still have a giant croquembouche mould cluttering up my kitchen cupboards to remind me. The mini version looks divine.

    • Thanks 🙂 I looked at the moulds available and they’re so expensive! I commend you for doing the full-scale version. I’m totally scared off doing it after watching that ep of Masterchef. I’m more than happy to stick with the mini version.

  3. Well done on pulling it off – I’m not sure I’d have the deftness or skill with the caramel bit but you’ve inspired me a little bit more to give it a go at some point! Might just stick to a pyramid of five buns for now, though…

    • Thank you! The spun sugar bit isn’t really that hard to do surprisingly. Just dip the forks into the toffee and flick it about! The hardest part was dipping the choux puffs (which are quite small) into the toffee without burning the tips of your fingers. Not to be done hastily!

      • I can imagine… did you have to keep reheating/cooling the caramel so it stayed liquid?

      • Yeah – it’s pretty cold in Adelaide at the moment, so I had about 20 minutes of liquid gold time before I had to reheat on a low heat. The next time I do this when it’s cold, I might try submerging part of the saucepan in hot water to try and keep it warm. Hopefully that will give me extra time to work with the caramel/toffee before it hardens.

      • Good idea, thanks for the tips!

  4. Wow, croquembouche takes preciseness and long time… especially bravo for the spun sugar! 😛

  5. Looks fantastic 🙂

  6. I love the little balls right out of the oven. They are so cute! Particularly the almost perfect sphere on the bottom left. Your spun sugar looks amazing and what a fun way to mark Bastille Day.

    • Thank you! They’re such a great size for eating because you can just pop a whole choux puff in your mouth. It was hard not to eat them once they were filled. There could’ve been a crisis because I’d eaten to many and there wasn’t enough to construct the croquembouche.

  7. Wow impressive

  8. Amazing, amazing and amazing! So beautiful and I am sure it taste even greater!

  9. Pingback: The Mint Slice macaron experiment | thecookingchook

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