Friday, December 3, 2010

Croquembouche (Part 1), Choux Pastry, Nougatine, Creme Patisserie, Religieux

Chef's Religieux

This was not an enjoyable class. "It's gonna be fun, guys!" chirps a delusional Chef Gert. Sure, if you count caramel stab wounds and 3rd degree sugar-burns as "fun". But behind the trauma lies an important lesson: in addition to building character and a new layer of skin, Croquembouche an impressive but demanding dessert all pastry chefs should have in their repertoire, preparing them for the long, intensive hours in store whenever someone exclaims "Oh yes! We would lurve a Croquembouche on our wedding day!"

Choux Pastry & Creme Patisserie

We've been through this before, to make profiteroles you will need: a million choux puffs and 2 gallons of creme patisserie (you'll see why soon enough) to be put together tomorrow. You can fill a couple of choux with cream, placed one atop the other and piped more cream around to make Religieux. But for today we had to build the nougatine base for the Croquembouche.

Nougatine In The Making

Nougatine is a sweet almond brittle made by coating toasted almond in caramel with a pat of butter for shine. This is good enough to be eaten on its own, as they most often are, so rest assured any leftovers you may have will not be going to waste.

Constructing Nougatine Base

The little pat of butter is also helpful in extracting the sticky mix from the pot and rolling it out. Nougatine is hot, guys: hovering over as I was vigorously rolling it out, I could feel the heat emitting onto my face as the steam burned my throat and lungs with every breath I took in. All this I suffer in the name of good dessert.

Cut out a circular disc and a long strip to go around and under it. Work quickly while the nougatine is still hot and malleable, but try as you may not to burn your fingers (too much).

Finishing Touches...Are Just The Beginning

Next small triangles were cut and laid on a curved surface (wine bottle works well) to curl up as they harden, then attached to the base with more caramel. I caution extra care and focus at this step, or you'll risk burning your fingers off faster than you can scream Merde!

Elaborate Croquembouche Base

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