Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valentine's Croquembouche Challenge (and fail) #ValentinesCroque

The adventures of a non-pasty chef trying to build a croquembouche. It wasn't pretty or easy, but I learned A LOT! 

When I was asked by Jenni if I wanted to participate in the Valentine'e Croquembouche Challenge immidiately I thought I should say no because... WTF is a Croquembouche?! So after I Googled it I stumbled upon some images and my first thought was, HELL NO!

Here is the REAL translation of Croquembouche from Wikipedia:
A croquembouche or croque-en-bouche is a French dessert consisting of choux pastry balls piled into a cone and bound with threads of caramel.
In Italy and France, it is often served at weddings, baptisms, and first communions.

Here is my translation: 
A croquembouche or croque-en-bouche is a tree made of cream puffs piled on top of each other and stuck together in sticky caramelized sugar, that induces random and loud cursing.
A Photoshop recreation of what it may have looked like...

But back to me bring Croque-propositioned by Jenni...
I already knew this was gonna be a HUGE challenge to me. Firstly- I am not a pastry chef and I never even made a cream puff, ONCE! Yes I was a cream puff virgin. Secondly, logistically and structurally how the hell do I get it to stay together as a tree.

So in preparing for this I made cream puffs for the first time and they were a pretty major fail. They completely lacked puff! After some coaching from Jenni I tried again. Then it was puff perfection! SCORE! Now at least I got the technique of making the cream puff down.

Now what kind of puffs do I make? Well I made regular puffs colored pink with your traditional side (or girly side) paired with chocolate flavored cream puffs filled with chocolate stout

Then I planned a day to make ALL the cream puffs, fill them with cream and build this bitch. I didn't realize how damn tired I would be just from baking like 60 creampuffs, Yup 60!!

So they are all baked and ready to be filled and it is already like 4pm. A food blogger's worst nightmare since I only got another hour of dim daylight. (I ONLY shoot in natural light!) Plus I was losing patience. One can only bake for so many hours!

So now I gotta build this thing in an hour or really less. I skip making caramelized sugar and just grab caramel.

Rookie mistake!

It doesn't harden like the sugar does and in stead I got a mess or cream puffs sliding all over and falling. I ALMOST make the tree- then ALLLLLL the puffs slide and fall.

$&&&%^^%^$^#&%%    ^$%##^*#&##%&#%n   &#&%#&%#%#&

All my spoken word was a barrage of curse words..... I only had today to build this thing.

I wish this tale of an epic struggle ended in complete triumph, but it did not. Sometimes life does not go as planned. Things get messy and overwhelming and you just get tired.

I gave it my all, but while the cream puffs themselves were a triumph, the croquembouche was not.

But I did learn A LOT!

I learned to make a darn good cream puff.
I leaned that sometimes you can't take shortcuts.
I learned that I still have the WORST time estimation skills
I learned to give yourself WAY more time that you think you need
Lastly I learned it's okay to fail especially when you go into a challenge knowing it is way over your head.

When I took on this challenge I gave myself permission to fail. If I did not, I would have gone CRAZY and went through another dozen eggs... I actually really was like BUT, what if I make caramelized sugar at 6am tomorrow, perfectionism is a hard inner voice to tame. But I tamed that bitch.

So as much as this post is about the almighty croquembouche it is just as much about accepting failure.

You never know when life will throw you a crouquembouche... never shy from it, but always learn from it!

The recipe for the profiteroles (cream puffs) I used was a standard recipe here

My Chocolate cream puffs had about 1/4 cup cocoa powder in place of some of the flour.

Cream was 2 cups heavy cream and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, with 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar to keep stiff.

The chocolate ones were filled with a chocolate stout cream made with the recipe above + 1/2 cup beer and 1 oz of dark chocolate that I cooked and reduced by half, then folded into the cream.

Thank you Jenni from Pastry Chef online for inviting me to take part in this challenge!

Check out all the other lovely Croquembouche below!

About the Valentine's Croquembouche Challenge

Welcome to our Valentine Croquembouche Challenge (#ValentineCroque). We are a group of intrepid bloggers who occasionally like to push ourselves well out of our comfort zone to meet baking challenges fearlessly. Jenni Field of Pastry Chef Online, whose tagline is Fearless in the Kitchen, challenged us to make Valentine’s-themed croquembouche. Traditionally, a croquembouche (French for “Crispy in Mouth”) is a tower of cream puffs filled with vanilla pastry cream and held together with caramelized sugar (the crispy part).

We are here to show you that you do not always have to be bound by tradition, so we created croquembouche that adhere to the spirit of the dish if not the actual letter. You’ll find all sorts of combinations of flavors here (including a savory version) that will hopefully expand your idea of croquembouche. Not all of our croques were wildly successful, but we all learned something, and we all pushed ourselves. Besides, blogging shouldn’t always be about aspirational and often unobtainable Pinterest moments. It should also be about the near misses and the journey we take when we take a chance. Thanks for joining us today.

If you’re interested in participating in future challenges, please contact Jenni.


Valentine Croquembouche Challenge

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