Disclosure: I attended courtesy of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and Casa & Bottega.
Apart from being a tall towering thing of beauty, it’s really fun to say.
I’ve always admired them before, but never made one. They just seemed *difficult* but you know what? It was actually much easier than I was expecting. See that bad boy up there? Yeah, I made that.
(Confession. It may have only been easy because I made it at a class at Casa and Bottega and I had guidance at every step.)
Casa and Bottega is located in North Melbourne and they’re a place that’s more than a Italian cafe. They also have a large shop that sells homewares and kitchen equipment and they also hold cooking classes, such as the croquembouche one I attended that was part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
I rocked up early on a Saturday morning and after a coffee and croissant courtesy of the cafe, we started croquembouche making.
Our first step was to make the profiterole filling, because this needed time to chill. Ideally, this would be done the day before.
They’re normally filled with a creme patisserie. For our class, we made a lemon pastry cream, which was super easy to make.
It was basically just eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rather a lot of butter (450g of butter to 6 eggs and 2 additional yolks).
All the ingredients except for the butter was thickened in a double boiler and then the butter was whisked in. And that was it. So easy. (And SO much butter.) The lemon pastry cream went into the chiller and we started on the next step.
Which was: choux pastry for profiteroles.
It used A LOT of eggs. 15 eggs, hello.
In the past when I’ve made choux pastry, I’ve used butter and made it on the stove. In class we used vegetable shortening instead of butter. We were advised that this is because it makes for a drier pastry – the inside doesn’t need to be opened up so it can dry out.
I actually prefer butter choux because I think it tastes nicer. Not that the choux we made was bad, I just prefer the richer taste of butter choux. But I definitely understand that if you were doing it on a big scale, you’d want a choux pastry that’s easier to control.
To make the choux, the vegetable shortening was melted in water and brought to a rapid boil. Flour was beaten in and it was cooked until it resembled mashed potato and came away from the sides of the pot.
The mixture was transferred to the stand mixer and mixed on low speed for several minutes so it cooled slightly. Then the eggs were gradually whisked in. This happened very slowly so the mixture didn’t split.
(Also – SO HARD to pour eggs and take a photo at the same time.)
The aim was to add enough eggs for it to reach a thick custard like texture.
As mentioned, I have previously done this by hand over the stove – I never thought to do it using the stand mixer before. It is a much better idea!
Once the choux was ready, it was time to pipe it into balls. Don’t laugh, because I know that I’m terrible at piping.
See? I AM TERRIBLE AT PIPING.
After I managed to pipe several trays of totally random sized balls, the profiteroles went into the oven for baking.
Caramel time. We made a wet caramel with the addition of glucose, which makes the caramel easier to control and shinier.
We ended up with a very light coloured caramel. Personally, I would’ve liked to have pushed the caramel a bit further so it was darker, but maybe it was a time thing.
After our caramel was just about ready, and the profiteroles had baked and had a chance to cool, we piped in the lemon pastry cream. Oooh leaky.
And then it was time for the most exciting stage: tower building!
Right, if you’ve made caramel before, you’d know that you need to be really careful because boiling sugar is freakishly hot AND it sticks to your skin. Caramel burns are not nice.
So… it probably wasn’t such a good idea to just take profiteroles and dip them into the caramel with our hands. I kept dropping mine into the caramel. Argh. (Fortunately I didn’t burn myself.)
Dip, stack, dip, stack, dip stack, and the tower started to take shape. We decorated with petals and strawberries and then used the toffee to spin sugar strands around the tower.
To do this we dipped a spare (non filled) profiterole into the toffee and twirled it around the tower. It’s no doubt safer to use forks.
Ta dah! All done!
The class was really fun and it made it seem so easy. There wasn’t too many of us so we had a lot of one on one time when we needed it. It was also really well paced – we weren’t rushed at all – and we had time to make all the different components.
And of course we got to take our towers home – hooray. (Though it was promptly dismantled as soon as I got it home for eating purposes…)
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Casa and Bottega
64 Sutton Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
Phone: 03 9322 4700