Our favorite part of this is that it makes a beautiful centerpiece. But the best part is taking it apart and eating. Enjoy!
1 recipe pâte à choux (cream puffs)
1 recipe dulce de leche filling
1 pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with the corner cut out) fitted with a round #8 pastry tip and filled with dulce de leche filling
1 recipe sugar caramel for mounting
Insert the pastry tip into the underside of each puff and fill with dulce de leche filling. Prepare your assembly station with parchment paper and serving tray. Make the sugar caramel.
Impale the bottom of each puff with a small knife or skewer. Dip the top of each puff (not the full puff) one at a time into the caramel. Arrange puffs next to each other in a circle on a parchment-lined serving platter or baking sheet. The caramel will glue them together.
Continue building the croquembouche, dipping and gluing another smaller ring of puffs on top of the first one, until the classic cone or tower shape has been achieved. Drizzle the croquembouche with caramel.
Set on a serving platter. Add decorative elements in the crevices. Just add caramel to the back of each item and place in desired location. We love to add sugar butterflies or sugar flowers.
Pâte à Choux
These are great filled with just about anything. My son loves them with vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate syrup. And I love them filled with fresh sweetened, vanilla whipped cream covered with powdered sugar. Yummy!
Yields 70–120, depending on size
For the dough
1 cup water
1 cup milk
8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
For the glaze
1 egg, beaten
Combine water, milk, and butter in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Sift together the salt, sugar and flour. Set aside.
Remove water, milk, and butter mixture from the heat and add the flour to saucepan while stirring constantly. Return the saucepan to high heat, stirring continuously, until a smooth mass forms.
Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. I prefer the stand-up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Start the mixer at medium high speed and begin adding the eggs one at a time. It is important to add the eggs to your ingredients slowly, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. If you don’t have a stand-up mixer, you can mix your dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon. The dough needs to cool a little before adding the eggs one at a time.
Beat the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut out) fitted with a plain round half-inch pastry tip. Pipe dough onto baking sheets, forming little rounded mounds 1 inch in diameter and ¾ inch high.
Brush each mound with egg (glaze), smoothing the top of each as you brush. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool the puffs on a wire rack. They can be used immediately or frozen in an airtight container for future use.
Dulce de Leche Filling
This is one of my favorite fillings—for puffs or just to use as a topping on tarts and cake. I hope you like it as much as my family and I do.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup dulce de leche
Place heavy whipping cream in a mixer fitted with whip attachment and whip until soft peaks start forming. Add dulce de leche and finish mixing until stiff peaks are formed. Keep refrigerated.
Please be very careful. Sugar burns worst than oil. To wash your pan, just fill it with water and let it sit. The water will dissolve the sugar, and it will be easier to clean.
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
In a small saucepan, place the water first, then slowly add the sugar and corn syrup without stirring. Make sure you do not to touch the sides of the pan. Cook at medium high heat till mixture comes to a boil. Do not stir.
Wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped into cold water to avoid any sugar crystals forming. Place a candy thermometer into the pan and cook sugar mixture until sugar mixture reaches 311° or hard crack.
You will be able to see the sugar melting and becoming brown. Continue cooking until sugar is light amber brown. Remove from heat or sugar will continue to cook and burn.