I decided it was time to challenge my slowly improving presentation skills and as you can see, I failed the test. A croquembouche is a pointlessly large dessert, usually made with choux pastry, and tends to be a pretty impressive spectacle. As always, it is the flavour and texture of the thing that matters to me, but there is no harm in trying to show off every now and again. This recipe makes a more manageable size croquembouche than a traditional recipe and it tastes fantastic whilst being really light.
This serves… a lot of people, once you work out how to cut into it of course…
Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)
350ml Double Cream
7oz White Chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
1 Lemon (just the juice is needed)
3 Eggs (just the egg whites needed)
9oz Caster Sugar
½ oz Flaked Almonds
1oz Dark Brown Sugar
½ oz Butter
In a medium size pan, heat 300ml of the cream on a low heat until hot (test with your finger, should be just about bearable) and then stir in the white chocolate and lemon juice until all of the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the ganache to cool before transferring to a plastic container and chilling in the fridge to set. The ganache should take about 4 hours to set in the fridge.
Grease and line two baking sheets with grease-proof paper and pre-heat the oven to 120oC (250oF, Gas Mark ½).
Separate the egg whites and yolks from the three eggs (see Strawberry Vacherin). Place the egg whites in a glass bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until soft peaks form (when you draw the whisk out, a peak will form and maintain its shape). Add 3oz of the caster sugar and whisk until stiff and shiny peaks form (similar to the soft peak stage just shinier).
Add another 3oz caster sugar and the cornflour and fold in with a metal spoon by dragging the spoon around the edge of the mixture in one complete circle and then pushing the spoon through the middle of the mixture from one side to the other, twisting the spoon as you do, to “fold” the mixture over. Repeat until fully combined but don’t over mix. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fit with a wide nozzle.
Pipe out as many small meringues as you can, varying the size of some of them. I produced 7 small meringues (about 5cm diameter), 12 medium (about 6cm diameter) and 4 large (about 7cm diameter). The size of the meringues is down to personal preference. To make the meringues, pipe in a circular motion starting from a centre point working outwards and then back in again (to give the meringues height). To produce the peak, stop piping, press the nozzle into the meringue slightly and then draw out in a straight and smooth motion.
Bake the meringues in the oven for 40mins and then turn the oven off. Allow the meringues to cool completely in the oven for at least 2 hours.
Place a frying pan on a medium heat and toast the flaked almonds to give them colour and then set aside to cool.
Chop the bananas to produce pieces about 1cm thick. In the frying pan, place the dark brown sugar and 50ml of water, stir and then leave to heat up. Once the liquid is bubbling violently, carefully add the banana pieces. Cook the bananas for a 2-3mins and then carefully turn over with a spatula and cook for a further 2-3mins. Transfer the banana pieces to some grease-proof paper to cool.
Once the meringues and ganache have cooled, make a caramel sauce. In a small pan on a medium heat, place the remaining 3oz of caster sugar and 2tbsp water and stir together to dissolve the sugar. Heat (don’t stir once the sugar has been dissolved) until the sugar begins to colour.
Once all the sugar has coloured, take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and 50ml of cream until fully combined. Allow to cool while you assemble the croquembouche.
Stack the meringues however you like and use the white chocolate ganache to “glue” the meringues together. Build the tower up in layers and intersperse the bananas in between the meringues. Once you have built the tower, drizzle the caramel over the meringues and sprinkle with the flaked almonds to finish.
These photos show how I built up the meringues.