For those of you who saw and appreciated my pastry creation at the TBA fundraiser I didn’t just casually create it. I actually started working on it in July…
This summer I was approached about making a special dessert for a fundraiser auction and it needed to be spiffier than cake-pops. What to do?
Nick at the 4th of July BBQ: “Hey, have you ever made a croquembouche?” I’d never even heard of them before that, so I googled it, and watched Zumbo’s Just Desserts, and said, “Wow! That looks like fun.”
I’d already been making eclairs from gf choux dough for several years so I thought profiteroles (mini-cream puffs) would be pretty easy. For my first run at it I tried the recipe here; Jasmyne Tea to see what I could learn from her recipe. I learned that her recipe makes about 250 profiteroles, not 100 and her custard is too stiff and a bit bland. I remixed the custard with more milk and vanilla so it would flow a little better and served half of them at a company picnic and sold the rest at the Saturday Market which made one little girl who had been recently diagnosed as celiac very happy.
I decided to go back to my original choux dough recipe and work with that for my profiteroles.
I’d never worked with hot sugar….did a lot of reading, watched a few videos, asked some people with more experience…and made certain to have a bowl of cold water with ice cubes in it near me at all times.I wasn’t sure how strong the sugar would be so I poured it into these molds pretty thickly….
Initially I wanted to build a stepped tower like the contestants on Zumbo’s did, but that didn’t really work out. It was very difficult to get the profiteroles to stack up neatly, small variances in size will work against neatness, and I believe a cold air gun would have been very handy to help the sugar-mortar set up faster.
Everything was kind of slipping around, burning my fingers, and then I tried putting on the first disk level. The weight of the first level was just too much for the un-set hot sugars and profiteroles below it and just slid over to one side. Time to rethink.
I went back to the Jasmyne Tea blog post to review how she had built her profiterole tower and she had used an inverted parking cone to hold everything in place. Genius!
I picked up a novelty cone at party supply warehouse and inverted it into a pitcher for stability. I also cleaned it thoroughly. 🙂
Having a frame work like this made it a lot easier to construct, far fewer moving parts. I still needed to work on consistent sizes for my profiteroles, but they were much closer in size to each other. I filled up the interior of the oiled cone with profiteroles and hot sugar…and didn’t wait for it to cool before I dumped it out of the cone.
The first picture is of my State Fair entry when I turned it in, it’s schlumping a bit because the foundation was the least set as it was the last parts I added. I also made small sugar stars using silicone molds and dipped forks into the hot sugar and draped sugar threads all around it. Unfortunately much of the thin sugar work dissolved on the drive out to the Fairgrounds. Did you know that sugar work attracts moisture and breaks down quickly in humid environments? I did not. The second picture is from the next day, I’m assuming I received a blue ribbon because the Judge saw it before it disentegrated. The one note the Judge gave was their was not enough vanilla flavoring in the creme filling, easy fix.
The day of the fundraiser arrived, I made the big and little stars the night before so they were ready. GF choux dough doesn’t really keep well so I made the profiterole shells fresh in the morning. While they were cooking I made the vanilla pudding, with extra cornstarch for stiffness, but not too stiff, and doubled up on the vanilla for flavor.
I ended up with 55 good profiteroles for the tower, there were 56 but I had to eat one for quality testing purposes. Melted more sugar, got a bowl of ice water and ice cubes ready, dipped and dropped profiteroles into the tower, only burned my fingers three times, very happy to have the bowl of ice water handy. Owwww! Ahhhh! Filled the tower and waited for everything to cool. And waited. And worried that the cooling sugar would glue itself to the inside of the tower…and dropped the whole tower gently out onto the table.
Ta-da! The plate it’s on looked a bit plain so I added a chocolate moat with white chocolate stars. And that’s it! People enjoyed demolishing and eating it after the banquet and my favorite moment was when it sold during the live auction for the same amount as the Mink stole.