At last, we got to the croquembouche, the French version of a wedding cake, and the literal translation of “crunch in your mouth”. Heh.
I had petitioned to my mother about having a croquembouche at our wedding, but she vetoed my idea. (She also vetoed my idea of having three wedding cakes because I couldn’t make up my mind. Spoilsport.) So I was really excited about this project at school, because I could finally make myself one of these bad boys!
I don’t actually like the taste of this “sculpture” very much – it’s interesting, but not my favourite. It just looks really nifty and different, in my humble opinion. The base and the top were made during the first practical, and it is nougatine. Nougatine tastes kind of like the small packets of sesame snaps from Costco, but it’s made with sliced almonds instead of sesames. The trick was to roll the sugary lumps out while they were burning hot and malleable, to shape them into the decoration pieces. Since I not-so-secretly enjoy dipping my fingers into hot candle wax when I burn candles at home, handling this caramel wasn’t too bad for my hands. It was most definitely very challenging, though. I had to put my caramel back in the oven a few times as the caramel cooled quickly at room temperature, and we had a lot of pieces to make (see all those little triangles around the base).
We ran wayyy overtime for the first class. My triangle cutting fiasco took longer than I thought because I actually cut out 25 triangles, as ordered by the chef, when in fact we only needed about 15. By the end, I quickly piped on the royal icing designs and didn’t have much time to embellish.
Part two of the croquembouche classes was easy and fun, except for the burns we all suffered. The “cone” part of the croquembouche is just cream puffs, filled with pastry cream, and dipped in crunchy caramelized sugar as you assemble. Ever since we discovered chouquettes and made them at school, I’ve made quite a few batches of choux pastry, so I was totally comfortable with making everything. When it came time to dip and assemble, though, that’s where our skills were tested. I began by burning myself with the 180-degree caramel three times as I dipped three puffs. Bad!
After fetching some ice water to keep with us, my friend and I continued along with dipping and assembling. At one point I looked around and wondered if my “cone” wasn’t tapering enough, oops. It all worked out in the end, though, and I made the tallest croquembouche because of my tapering issues – not exactly a bad thing!
When I brought my croquembouche to the chef for grading, he got a little excited in conversation and slammed his fist down on the counter….causing a bit of an issue with my croquembouche pieces. Ughhhhh!
The beginnings of deconstruction…and then it all fell apart.
The chef warned us not to leave our sculptures in the common area for students, but as soon as I carried mine through the crowded room, people began asking and mauling the croquembouche. I wish I were joking, but grabby hands literally attacked the poor little thing as soon as I said I didn’t want to eat/keep it.
Before…and after. I let them eat cake.
I shared some of my croquembouche and threw out the rest. Since it was already coming apart, there was no chance it was going to survive the Metro ride home. I’m excited to have made this “cake”, though, and I will definitely do it again for a special occasion! I just think it looks so much more original than another three-tiered fondant cake…even though I prefer the taste of actual cakes better. Hmmm.