• Serves 12 - 15 people

  • To serve: sugar-coated almonds and crystalised violets
  • Crème pâtissière
  • 590 ml milk
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 175 gm caster sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 55 gm plain flour sieved with 8gm Dutch-process cocoa
  • 40 ml Cointreau
  • 250 gm double cream
  • Choux pastry
  • 335 ml milk
  • 270 gm unsalted butter, diced in tiny pieces
  • 1½ tsp caster sugar
  • 335 gm plain flour, sieved onto a sheet of baking paper
  • 9 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 extra egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt and 2 tsp milk, for eggwash
  • Caramel
  • 1.125 kg white sugar
  • 150 ml liquid glucose
01   For crème pâtissière, bring milk, vanilla bean and seeds and half the sugar to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then remove from heat. Whisk yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl until pale, then whisk in flour and cocoa mixture. Pour in the hot milk, whisking continuously to combine, then return to pan and whisk over medium heat until thickened (1-2 minutes). Reduce heat to low and whisk continuously until the taste of flour cooks out (2-3 minutes). Transfer to a bowl placed over a large bowl of ice cubes with a handful of salt and a glass of cold water to speed up cooling. Remove vanilla bean, stir occasionally until cooled, then press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate until chilled (40-60 minutes). Whisk until smooth with a whisk (not in a mixer – it may turn watery), working in Cointreau. Whisk cream just until it holds its body, then fold into pastry cream, cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Pastry cream can be made 2 days ahead. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle to fill pastries.
02   For choux pastry, preheat oven to 220C and line several baking trays with baking paper. Bring milk, butter, sugar, 1½ tsp fine salt and 335ml water slowly to the boil in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat or turn heat off, tip in flour from baking paper and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
03   Return to the heat and stir continuously over low heat until dough comes away from the sides of pan, forming a ball (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, press plastic wrap on the surface and cool for 15 minutes at room temperature.
04   Beat in the eggs in 4 or 5 additions, holding back a little of the egg and checking the texture of the mixture – it should have a dropping consistency; that is, the pastry should fall very slowly from the spoon when held over the bowl. Only add more egg if the pastry is still stiff.
05   Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.2mm plain nozzle, then pipe 2.5cm-diameter balls, leaving a few centimetres between each.
06   Use a loosely rolled ball of plastic wrap dipped in eggwash to flatten pastries slightly, then brush lightly with eggwash (don’t let it run down the sides or the pastry won’t rise). Bake in batches for 10-12 minutes, then reduce oven to 170C and bake until golden and dry (8-10 minutes). Set aside to cool while you make the first batch of caramel.
07   Combine a third of the sugar (375gm) and a third of the glucose with 125ml water in a saucepan and stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar before it boils. Skim off any whitish foam and brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water to wash sugar crystals back in. Cook until pale golden and mixture reaches 160C on a sugar thermometer (10-15 minutes).
08   Remove caramel from heat and carefully dip the base into a large saucepan filled with iced water to arrest the cooking (it may bubble wildly) and swirl the caramel around to help it cool.
09   Use a fork or metal skewer to dip the top two-thirds of each choux bun into caramel, then place them bottom-side down back on the baking trays. Repeat with a second batch of sugar, glucose and water to finish the buns. Stand until set, then pierce a hole in the base of each with a paring knife and fill with crème pâtissière.
10   Lightly oil a 26cm croquembouche mould and place on a lightly oiled oven tray. Make the third batch of caramel as before and dip it into iced water to halt the cooking. Working quickly with a choux bun at a time, dip into the caramel and arrange around the base of the mould. Continue working up the mould in a spiral until the mould is covered. Stand for the sugar to harden and set (12-15 minutes), then very gently and carefully twist the mould and slide it off the tower of caramelised buns. Use remaining caramel to attach the almonds and violets. If there’s any left, use a fork to drizzle strands over the croquembouche and serve.










Nov 2015

Nov 2015

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