Croquembouche is a French dessert which is made by stacking cream puffs in a cone, cementing them together with a toffee. It is often used at French weddings, christenings and other celebrations.
The croquembouche has a long history. It appears to have been invented by French pastry chef Antoine Careme. Many of the individual components such as the cream puffs date to the 1500s, illustrating the long history of fine pastries in France.
This pastry concoction is one of a family of desserts known as pièces montées, or “mounted pieces.”
A pièce montée is a dessert which is carefully constructed from an assortment of components, and designed to look as ornate as possible. The dessert is quite crunchy, which explains the name: “croquembouche” meaning “bite in the mouth.”
Constructing a croquembouche takes a fair few steps. First, profiteroles (a French dessert choux pastry ball filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, custard, and/or ice cream) must be made, before a toffee glaze is prepared. The profiteroles are the building blocks for the croquembouche. These cream puffs are stacked using toffee to stick them together, and then the outside of the croquembouche is decorated.
A croquembouche is traditionally decorated by dusting it with candied almonds. The base and the top decoration support can be made of Nougatine (mixture of caramel and slices almonds) or sweet pastry disc. Some bakers drizzle chocolate over the croquembouche. The top of the croquembouche may be adorned with ribbons and other ornaments.
A celebrity chef, his was a style of cooking that was opulent if not outright excessive. He is seen as the founder of “La Grande Cuisine Française” – the High/Grand Art of French Cuisine. He was a modernizer in the field of cooking. He is the one who classified French sauces into the four groups that they remain in today, besides being the one to codify the art of “cold food” that aimed to preserve as much taste as it had when cooked. Carême is often considered as one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs.
Not to forget, Careme invented Caramel! Around 1850, it was discovered that adding milk and fat products to a cooked sugar mixture made a sweet chewy confection, which was christened ‘Caramel’.