As elegant as it is delicious.
Across France, even to this day, it’s common to celebrate holidays, weddings, and big events with a croquembouche. While pies and cakes are also welcome additions to French celebrations, it doesn’t get more French than this stunning early-19th century concoction. There’s simply nothing else like it!
Instead of having a cake or pudding you slice into, a croquembouche is often torn apart with tongs or your hands. Each delectable ball of the stack is coated in a sugar glaze and you just break off a few for your serving. This espresso crème croquembouche is filled with a rich, silky smooth cream inside then decorated with spun sugar for a truly show-stopping effect at the table. If you want to hear lots of “oohs” and “aahhhs” at your next event this is one very sweet way to get them.
To begin this recipe you’ll need to make a choux pastry. This is a dough that’s been thickened on the stove before being piped onto lined baking sheets to finish cooking. If you have a piping bag then you already have everything you need to make it. This mixture is heavy on the eggs which helps them keep their shapes. The balls resemble the texture of eclairs when done baking and are known in French as “profiteroles”.
Let those cool while chilling the filling, which is a mixture of prepared instant coffee, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, and a little bit of powdered sugar. For a stronger coffee flavor you can add a bit more instant coffee. If you don’t like coffee leave it out and increase the sugar in the mix. Then add a bit of lemon or vanilla extract and water instead.
Take a clean piping bag and a medium tip and fill each one with the chilled crème. The next steps are traditional and can be a lot of work, but I have a shortcut for you that does not disappoint!
To coat each profiterole in the sugar glaze simmer together water, sugar, and corn syrup on the stove, then cool it in an ice water bath. Then dunk each one in part way. Stack the sticky pieces of the croquembouche together on your serving dish, making a cone, pyramid, or mound shape. You may have to re-stack some of them as you go. I recommend doing all the sugarwork on a silicone baking/prep mat for ease in cleaning up.
Let that sit for 20 minutes before making the spun sugar. Using a slightly different ratio of sugar, water, and corn syrup the spun sugar mixture will be darker in color and will begin to set very quickly after the ice bath. This is how you can make strings from it and “spin” them into a magical web of sugar that goes over the entire mound.
Here’s where that shortcut comes in. Instead of making 2 sugar glazes, you can opt to simply melt some dark or milk chocolate chips and dip the profiteroles into the melted chocolate. As they harden it will lend stability to your stack. The only downside is that you won’t be able to reposition them as easily.
Either finishing method is best done on cooler, less humid days. But, both of them yield a spectacular dessert with a presentation that’s unlike anything else. For a dessert course people can enjoy with both their eyes and mouths, this espresso crème croquembouche is the perfect show-stopping treat.
Espresso Crème Croquembouche
2h 15m prep time
1h cook time
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee
- 8 tablespoons hot water
- 1 (8 oz) tub mascarpone
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- pinch salt
- 1/4 cup (2 oz) whipping cream
For the profiteroles:
- 3/4 cups water
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3-4 eggs
For the glaze:
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 cups water
For the spun sugar:
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
Optional for finishing:
- 3/4 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
For the filling:
- Combine coffee and water. Allow to cool completely. Or use 8 tablespoons chilled prepared espresso.
- In a medium bowl whip cream until stiff peaks form. Combine cooled coffee with mascarpone, sugar, and salt. Fold coffee mixture into cream until uniform in color. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.
For the profiteroles:
- Preheat oven to 450˚F. Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium until butter is melted. Add in flour and cook for 1-2 more minutes, stirring constantly, until batter pulls away from the pan.
- Pour batter into a metal mixing bowl. Add 3 eggs one at a time, beating with an electric mixer between each addition. Dough should become glossy after adding eggs. If it does not add one more egg.
- Pour batter into a piping bag. Pipe into ball shapes onto lined baking sheets using a large round tip. There should be around 30-35 profiteroles. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed up, then reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn off heat and allow them to sit for 10 minutes in cooling oven.
- Use a clean piping tip to poke a hole in the bottom of each pastry before setting on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Fill a piping bag with creme filling. Use pre-made holes to insert filling into each pastry using a medium tip.
For the glaze:
- Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then remove lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until caramel in color. Do not stir or allow to overheat. Dip pan into a large bowl of ice water to cool it for 1 minute or so.
- Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Dunk each pastry in glaze, then assemble on a plate in a stacked pyramid or cone shape, with 7-10 profiteroles on the first layer and decreasing in number until only one ball is on top. Allow to set for 20 minutes.
- Boil remaining spun sugar ingredients on medium for 8-10 minutes until golden in color. Dip pan into ice water bath for 1 minute. Transfer to heat-proof bowl. Test with fork to see if strings appear after dipping into sugar. If they do work quickly using one or two forks to spin sugar around the croquembouche from the base to the top.
- If using chocolate instead skip making glaze and spun sugar. Melt chocolate in microwave using 30-second intervals. Dip each unglazed profiterole in the chocolate and stack up in aforementioned mound or cone shapes. Allow to set fully in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- To serve break off 3-4 profiteroles as individual portions. Croquembouche is best eaten the day of and can become soggy if stored long term in the fridge.
Recipe adapted from Food Network.