I love our new collaborative series with Ana Maria, from Qlinaria! I have to tell you that I am very impressed with how different each dish came out!! Already looking forward to the next one! What should the star ingredient be? Any suggestions?
As our “Cooking is Sharing” post suggests, half of the fun in cooking is “sharing”.Whether that is sharing a meal at the table, sharing each their own dish at a pot luck, or sharing the actual cooking experience – it is what makes cooking invaluable for me.
A few weeks ago, Lorena(who made those amazing Alfajores for us) and Pacha came over to do some “Cooking and Shooting” As I mentioned Lorena is my photography mentor, and has graciously offered up her services in helping Pacha and me(novices to the world of reflex photography) improve!
So while the boys were out watching a football match, we decided to give ourselves a challenge, that we could all savour together when the match was over. Flipping through cookbooks, food magazines and zipping through websites, we all blurted out “Croquembouche”, in nearly perfect synchronization… Well not really, one said “the choux with spun caramel in a cone tower… like they did in Master Chef”, the other “the Pièce Montée” and the third “St. Honoré”… what we all meant though turned out to be “Croquembouche”.
It is a very impressive dessert composed of cream-filled little dough puffs, called “choux” (pronounced “shoo”), which are then lightly dipped in caramel and arranged in a neat cone formation. To be very fair, we could not have chosen a more challenging dessert to make. Firstly, none of us had ever made any of the components before. Secondly, we did not have proper piping bags. Instead we piped out the choux with a zip lock bag with the tip snipped off; for the filling I made a pretend tip(out of a little piece ripped off the carton from the foil packaging) and stapled it to the inside of the zip lock bag… Which turned out to work pretty well!
In the end, we had a great time, enjoying each others company, drinking some lovely wine, and rotating responsibilities so that everyone did every part of the process! It is truly worth doing tough recipes like that, because you get to share the excitement as it emerges, or if it fails, at least you had fun doing it!! The only thing that was not as successful was the photography, as no great photography can be done without proper light… Next month!!
The truly rewarding part was when they all came back after the match and said: “Wow!!! It looks amazing!!” and passed the test of truth – they asked for seconds!
CHOCOLATE FILLED COQUEMBOUCHE
For the Choux
- 55g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 70g plain flour, sifted
- 2 medium eggs
For the chocolate creme patisserie
- 300ml whole milk
- 25g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 2 large egg yolks
- 55g caster sugar
- 30g plain flour
- Icing sugar, for dusting
For the Caramel
- 250g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/ fan160°C. For the choux pastry, put the butter and 150ml water in a large pan over a medium heat. When the butter has melted and the water is simmering, quickly add the flour and mix to a thick paste. Mix over the heat for 1 minute, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well before adding the second egg. You should get a thick, glossy, dropping-consistency mixture(ours was really thick). Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain 1.5cm nozzle. Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with a little water, then pipe on 25 golf-ball-size blobs, spaced apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until well risen and golden.
- Carefully make a hole in the base of each bun with a sharp knife. Pop back in the turned off oven for 5 minutes to crisp up the centers. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the creme patisserie, which will be the filling. Put the milk and chocolate in a pan over a medium heat, stirring to melt. When just simmering, remove from the heat. In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, until pale and creamy, then mix in the flour. Slowly mix in the chocolate mixture, then pour it all back into the pan. Return to a medium-low heat and cook, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes, until thick and glossy. Cool, dust the surface with a little icing sugar to prevent a skin forming.
- Spoon the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain 5mm nozzle. Fill each bun, pushing the nozzle through the base-hole.
- For the caramel, put the sugar and 2 tablespoons cold water (do not be tempted to add more, the caramel will not harden as nicely!!) in a wide, stainless-steel pan over a low heat. Melt gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Increase the temperature and simmer, without stirring, until a golden amber colour – be careful as it will easily burn. Cool slightly.
- Carefully dip a little of each bun into the caramel, allow the excess to drip off and stack the buns up into a pyramid shape. Leave to firm up.
- To make the spun sugar, return the caramel to the heat to melt again. Dip in a fork and flick back-and-forth over the croquembouche, repeating until you have lots of fine strands of hardened caramel all over the buns.
The more experienced you become, the smaller the choux should become! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!!