What’d You Do Last Weekend?

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For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to go to Paris. My family's full of anglophiles, and dinners were opportunities to discuss the Tudors and Stuarts, Victoriana, and Gilbert and Sullivan. I went the other route, to the east. By the time I graduated college my romantic notions of the place were in full bloom. I'd studied French history, knew my art, and spoke passable book-French. The only thing left to do was go.

As it happened, I got a trip for graduation. But I also got a job offer at a high tech company, not something to shake a stick at as a liberal arts major. They wouldn't hold the job until I got back, and you know the end of that story. I went to work instead.

Again and again over the years something's stepped in whenever the time seemed right to go. The last time I was packed up when the SARS epidemic hit, and a meeting was moved to Lisbon instead. I got gun-shy. By then I was living in New York, a shorter ride to Paris than back to Seattle, yet I flew west every other weekend.

Insane as it sounds, the croquembouche was my stand-in for those trips. I'd seen one in a book when I was in high school, and it made such an impression. To me, that was Paris. It stood tall and glittered magnificently, just like the city in my imagination. So this was not my first croquembouche; I have met this old friend before.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake.
Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Recipes can be found at the Daring Kitchen.

A couple of tricks I've learned over the years might help:

  • Bake all the cream puff dough in a single day, dry them, core them, and then put them in containers in the deep freezer. They'll keep for months, and it's a great way to get enough baked to build a tall tower.
  • My choux were filled with a combination of pastry cream and stabilized whipped cream (whipped cream in which warmed, bloomed gelatin is added and then whipped). Make your filling and refrigerate it well before you fill the choux so you know it's thick enough to hold.
  • My tower was about 18" - 22" tall, and I did not build it on a mold. I did, however, put puffs in the middle of the tower to fortify it. I baked 100 puffs of varying sizes and used about 80.
  • I build onto a cardboard cake round that's sitting on a lazy susan, that way I can move in a circle pretty quickly when working with spun sugar.
  • For this tower, I wound up making 2 batches of caramel. The first set too hard to keep using it, so I started pulling threads before I was even done building it up.
  • The first ring of puffs on the bottom is the most critical to get right because everything rests on these. I find my biggest choux (all the same size) and dip the side in caramel, not the bottom. I place that caramel-side down and then do the same for the next several until a ring is formed with the bottoms of the choux facing the inside of the column. I can then build up the middle a bit (without caramel) and give the rest of the sides something to stick to as it gets taller. I repeat this (outer ring, inner fill, outer ring, etc) until it's as tall as I want it or it starts to look silly. This tower was built on a 10" cake round with a base of 8 or 9 big choux.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer
Croquembouche on FoodistaCroquembouche


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honestly this blog made me starving every time, I love food so much, I also like cooking, you provide all food from different country, but it was always look delicious and worth it to try.. awesome
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I don't believe this., This

I don't believe this., This looks horrible but if it is sweet then I believe that this will be much delicious. Anyhow thanks for sharing the information.

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WOW! What an interesting

WOW! What an interesting story, you had graduated and studied french history. after reading this i feel like study french history.
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Wow that is one tall tower!

Wow that is one tall tower! I'll bet that just made you want to get to Paris sooner!

Wow that is an amazing tower.

Wow that is an amazing tower. One of the best I've seen. Love your croquembouche. Hope you get to Paris soon.

Wow, what a response!

I know I have no excuse about not going over there - I'll get there one of these days.

Amanda, Megan, Melissa, Ivonne, Smith Bites, Renata, wic, and Maybelles Mom, thank you so much for your comments, your visit, and your support! I've seen some awfully good croquembouches this week (Maybelle's Mom made a killer mini, if you ask me), and I'm just so flattered you came by. And I don't know that I've ever had such an awesome cheering section! Everyone should have friends and colleagues this supportive.

I'm in this for all the right reasons, I know that.

Thanks to you all!

Piece Montee

This looks sensational - the caramel is so delicate! I hope you make it to Paris before too long.


You have done a wonderful job, and you will get to Paris one day, you've got plenty of time!

You will have Paris!

Can't wait for you to actually go- How amazing will it be :) YOU + Paris food = heaven :)

I understand completely ...

I understand completely ... that croquembouche is GORGEOUS!!!

You dream of France like I

You dream of France like I dream of Italy except that I have been there; I was making plans to return and spend a semester studying but The Professor asked me to marry him and well, the rest is history. But I still have dreams of taking The Professor to Italy some day - would like to visit France as well as Spain. Martha Stewart had a recipe for one of these in her December '09 magazine but by that time, we were neck deep in work so wasn't possible. It's such a stunning piece of food-art!


Your puffs are perfect, your tower very well assembled! Thanks for sharing the tricks!

I think it looks absolutely

I think it looks absolutely delicious and I love it.
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oh, I completely understand

oh, I completely understand having stand in for travels. I am very much like that with Paella. Great job.

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