Croquembouche

It was my birthday, mine, & my children asked if I could make a gluten free Croquembouche - for my birthday. So I took on the challenge & had fun while making it. Really yummy does not describe it. The crunch & slight bitterness of the toffee, the creamy silkiness of the custard & the delightful choux bun holding it altogether. Mmmmmm, they were really good. As my children demolished half of it before drawing a breath one cheekily commented "I am still not sure Mum, I think you will have to make another one". Not on my birthday!  

Ingredients

Choux pastry

165 g Bakers' Magic Gluten free flour

23 g Maize starch

~1/3 tsp Salt

375 g Water

6 Eggs

165 g Butter

 

Custard

300 g Thickened cream*

600 g Milk (full fat)

60 g Maize starch

180 g Sugar

6 Whole eggs 

2 Egg yolks

20 g Vanilla essence

50 g Butter

~ 300 g Thickened cream *

I buy a 600 ml bottle of thickened cream & use 300 g of it to make the custard. I then use the cream left in the bottle to "thin" the custard for piping into the choux buns. 

 

Toffee

500 g Caster sugar

150 g Water

80 g Glucose syrup

1 tsp Vinegar

 

Method

Making the custard

Line a tray with non-stick paper & have a bit hanging over the sides. Put plastic clingwrap over the paper (it makes it easier to get the custard out). The tray I used was a slice tray 30 cm x 20.5 cm. 

Thermomix

Put ingredients into the TM bowl apart from the butter.

Cook at 90 C for 12 mins at speed 4. 

Add butter & mix for 15 sec at speed 4.

While the custard is still hot, pour it in the tray.

Put a layer of plastic clingwrap on top of the custard. 

Set aside to cool.

When it is cool enough put the tray into the fridge.

Stove Top

On the stove top the custard can be made in a saucepan or in a double boiler. There is more control of the temperature in a double boiler & the custard is usually very smooth. If making the custard in a saucepan have on hand a stab blender. If the custard is lumpy blitz it with the stab blender.  

Set aside the butter.

Mix a little of the cream/milk with the maize starch to make a paste in the saucepan or top of a double boiler.

Add the remaining cream/milk, sugar, vanilla essence, eggs (whole & yolks). 

Stir over low/medium heat until it starts to thicken. Turn off the heat or lower the heat & stir the custard at this temperature for ~4 mins. 

Add the butter & stir it in.

While the custard is still hot, pour it into the tray. 

Put a layer of plastic clingwrap on top of the custard. 

Set aside to cool. When it has cooled sufficiently transfer the tray to a fridge.

Making the choux buns

Turn oven on to 210 C.

Mix together the Bakers' Magic Gluten free flour & maize starch.

Thermomix

Put water, salt & butter into the TM bowl and cook at 100 C for 5 minutes on speed 2.

Add the flour & mix for 20 secs on speed 4.

Take bowl out & allow to cool for ~10 mins.

Put the timer on for ~40 sec, start mixing at speed 5 & drop the eggs onto the rotating blades one at a time.

Stove top & Stand mixer*

Put the water, salt & butter into a saucepan & heat gently until the butter has melted.

Turn up the heat until the mixture starts to boil.

Remove from the heat & add the flour, quickly stirring/beating it.

Return the pan to a low heat continuing to stir the mixture for another ~minute. It will be very thick. 

Remove the pan from the heat & transfer mix to a mixing bowl. It can be mixed by hand but it is so much easier with a mixer. 

Cool the mix by beating it gently.

Increase the speed on the mixing, add an egg & continue beating until the egg is incorporated.

Repeat with the other eggs (one at a time).

Both

Line 2 trays with baking paper.

Transfer the choux paste to a piping bag with a plain or star nozzle (I used a size 15 plain nozzle). Pipe "dollops" on to the baking paper leaving space in between for expansion. This mix will make ~48 small buns. 

Getting rid of the little tip - Put some water in a little dish, dip your fingers into the water & smooth over the tips on the choux paste. If the paste starts sticking wet your fingers again. I flick some of the water from my fingertips onto the trays to produce a bit more steam. 

Transfer the trays to the oven & bake at 210 C for approximately 20 mins. The time will depend on the size & shape of your choux paste & your oven. Don't open the oven while the choux are baking (you don't want them deflating).

Allow to cool to room temperature. Store the buns in an airtight container without filling them if they are not going to be eaten on the day they were made. 

Filling the choux buns 

Bring out the cold custard & transfer it to a mixing bowl. Use a stab blender to break up the custard. 

Stir in the remaining thickened cream.

Transfer the custard cream to a piping bag fitted with a smallish nozzle (~size 9).

Pick up a bun & insert the nozzle into the bottom or side of the bun. Gently squeeze the piping bag to fill the bun with the custard cream. Put the filled bun back on to the tray.

Repeat with the remainder of the choux buns. 

Making the toffee & assembling the buns

I used a chinois (a conical sieve) as my template for the Croquembouche. I put lightly oiled baking paper on the inside & attached the buns to the paper. I have seen people use a traffic cone as their template but I haven't made it myself this way. Alternatively the Croquembouche could be built from the "ground" up. Put a circle of toffee on to the serving plate & place the first layer of buns on the toffee. Spoon some of the toffee on to the top of these buns & add the second layer of buns etc.  

Be careful when making the toffee. Hot toffee burns are nasty - if you do burn yourself, put the affected area under running cold water immediately. 

I made the toffee in a non stick frypan as opposed to a saucepan. The lower sides on the frypan make it easy to dip the buns into the toffee. 

Put the ingredients into a frypan & stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Don't boil the mixture before it has dissolved otherwise the sugar will crystallise. Both glucose syrup & vinegar are added to help stop sugar crystallisation.

Prepare your template by lightly oiling the inside. Put some paper down on your kitchen bench to catch the toffee drips.

When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat & boil the mixture without stirring until it starts changing colour. Turn down the heat as the toffee will continue to cook/colour. If the toffee is changing colour too quickly remove the frypan from the heat. 

Carefully dip the top of the bun into the toffee & place the bun in the bottom of the template with the toffee side touching the template.

Repeat with another bun putting it next to the first bun (it will be further up the template).

Repeat until your template is full. Try to make the bottom of the Croquembouche level. 

Before inverting ensure the toffee on the top layer (will be the base) has set.

Put the serving plate on top of the template. Holding both template & plate invert the two.

Gently tap the template to loosen the buns. Take off the template - tah dah.

Making the toffee strands

This was really messy. Really messy. There were little toffee blobs going everywhere (but it was fun).

Cover your work bench with lightly oiled paper.

Cover two rolling pins (or something that the toffee strands can rest on) with lightly oiled baking paper.  

I used two forks to dip into the toffee but it would have been better if the tines of the fork were wider apart. 

Dip the fork into the toffee & quickly flick the fork back & forth between the rolling pins. If the strands of toffee look more like blobs - move faster. Repeat the dipping & flicking process until there is enough to wrap around the Croquembouche. 

Gently pick up the toffee strands and place it around the Croquembouche. 

Now the fun begins for the rest of the family - demolishing it. Enjoy!