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Chocolate Swirl Croquembouche

I started craving croquembouche again after the second last celebrity MasterChef. I was craving it so bad, that I didn’t think I could wait until Christmas (which is when I had planned to make my next croquembouche [1]) to eat a custard or pastry cream filled profiterole with the lovely caramel or toffee crunch.

The chocolate delice [2] challenge was taking up my time and weekends were being filled so fast with dinners, outings and a gingerbread house [3], I didn’t know if I would get any Christmas shopping done (I didn’t get much done, lucky I have a wonderful mum and sisters who did most of it, and whom I thanked with this lovely croquembouche along with the rest of Christmas lunch).

For Christmas I decided to make Adriano Zumbo’s chocolate swirl croquembouche, as I was intrigued by the chocolate profiteroles, but I still wanted the original gorgeous profiteroles too.

Others and myself looked around quite a bit to find isomalt and the white food white colouring, but were unable to find any in shops – a few places online look as though they sell it. So, instead I decided to make some royal icing butterflies to go on top (using the leftovers from my gingerbread house [3]).

After comparing these quantities to those from the first croquembouche, I decided to cook half the quantity of choux pastry (for the normal and chocolate ones) and a bit more than half the caramel (although I should have made the full quantity of caramel/toffee, as I was making the base and the extra was required for this). I think it’s better to have left over custard than profiterole cases and toffee.

The half amount of choux pastry made almost the perfect number of profiteroles for the vanilla pastry cream. I ended up with a decent amount of chocolate pastry cream left over, but I’m not complaining – as both pastry creams are delicious.

I ended up making quite a large filled croquembouche this time around, although probably wouldn’t recommend one quite as large, as mine only lasted long enough for the photos before crashing down. The next day all the caramel/toffee had dissolved into a large sticky puddle, even though the profiteroles were in an air tight container. We had a large amount of humidity on Christmas day.

I’m really happy I tried the chocolate swirl croquembouche, although think I would stick to the normal one [1]in future, and make the tower a bit smaller.

Chocolate Swirl Croquembouche

Recipe slightly adapted from Adriano Zumbo’s recipe on Celebrity MasterChef 2009 [4]

Serves: 12 (I think it serves 20 or more)

Vanilla pastry cream
2 litres milk
500g egg yolks (from around 30 large or extra large eggs)
500g sugar
200g cornflour
200g butter
2 vanilla beans, split, seed scraped out

Chocolate pastry cream
750g of the vanilla pastry cream
375g cream
190g Cocoa Barry 72% Venezuela Chocolate (I used 100g 70% Lindt Chocolate + 90g dark cooking chocolate)

Choux pastry (this is half the quantity from the original recipe and made around 130 profiteroles)
212 ml water
265 ml milk
10g sugar
10g salt
200g butter
265 g plain flour
8 eggs

Chocolate choux pastry (this is half the quantity from the original recipe and made around 40 chocolate profiteroles)
80ml water
100ml milk
4g sugar
4g salt
75g butter
75g flour
25g Barry cocoa powder
3 eggs

Caramel
1kg sugar
300ml water
400g glucose
250g chopped almonds

Decorations (optional)
200g isomalt
20ml water
A few drops of food colouring
Selection of food colouring

1. To make the pastry cream: place milk and vanilla beans into a large saucepan. Heat gently over medium heat until milk almost boils. Remove from heat, discard vanilla beans and set aside. Beat egg yolks, sugar and cornflour with electric beaters until thick and pale. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and return mixture to the same pan. Stir over medium heat until the custard boils. Remove from heat and pour onto flat tray, spread out to cool rapidly. Cover the surface of the custard closely with cling film, to prevent a skin from forming. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature of custard. When mixture has reached 55ºC, stir through butter and refrigerate, still covered, until completely cooled.

30 egg yolks - the most I've ever used

The custard mixture was too much for the bowl I had. So I whisked in 1 litre of the milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks and sugar, before straining it all back into the remaining 1 litre of milk in the saucepan.

2. To make the chocolate pastry cream: place 750g of cooled vanilla pastry cream, chocolate and cream in a saucepan and reboil. Pour onto a tray, cover with cling film and refrigerate until completely cooled.

3. To make the choux pastry: preheat the oven to 210ºC convection. Lightly grease 2-3 large oven trays and set aside. Combine the water, milk, sugar, salt and butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and using a wooden spoon quickly beat in the flour. Return saucepan to the heat and continue beating until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cook stirring over low heat for a further 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. Using hand beaters, beat the mixture to release any more heat. (I used my KitchenAid to get rid of a lot of the heat before adding the eggs). Gradually add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well between each addition until all the eggs have been added and the mixture is thick and glossy (a spoon should be able to stand upright in it). Beat for several more minutes, or until thickened.

Half way through the eggs

5. To make the chocolate choux pastry: repeat step 3 & 4 to make chocolate choux pastry adding the cocoa powder with the flour.

6. Spoon the mixtures, in batches, into piping bags fitted with a 1.25-1.5cm nozzle. Cover remaining pastry with cling film. Pipe mixture onto trays about 2.5cm x 2cm high leaving room for spreading. Bake for 25-30 minutes, in batches, or until firm and hollow when tapped. Transfer puffs to wire racks.

7. Spoon custards into separate piping bags with a nozzle less than 1cm. Poke a small hole in the base of each puff and fill choux pastry with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate choux with chocolate pastry cream. Set aside.

8. For the caramel: grease a cake ring with cooking spray. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan until it boils. Add glucose, and cook until syrup turns a caramel colour. Remove from the heat and dip the base of the pan in a bowl of cold water to cool slightly. Pour just enough caramel to cover almonds and mix well; pour almond caramel into ring to form a 5mm base. This is the base for the croquembouche.

9. Dip the puff bases (I dipped the tops of the profiteroles) in enough toffee to coat and place upside down on a tray lined with silicon paper or silpat mat. (I used baking paper, which worked reasonable well).

10. Combine isomalt and water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Using a candy thermometer, bring mixture to 160ºC. Remove from heat and add white food colouring. Mix well; mixture will turn completely white. Slowly add drop by drop of colours and swirl pan to mix slightly. Pour into silpat moulds, reserving 1-2 tablespoons of mixture. Stand butterflies for 5 minutes or until hardened.

I improvised and made royal icing butterflies, by piping different coloured royal icing onto baking paper – be careful – they are fragile (two of my three fell apart.

11. To assemble: oil the inside of the croquembouche cone. Dip the sides of the puff balls in the toffee one at a time and place around the inside of the cone in a single row. Place one chocolate ball in each row, to the bottom right of previous chocolate ball. Continue adding rows of vanilla balls and single chocolate balls until the cone is filled and the chocolate balls forms 2 spirals pattern. Place a small amount of caramel on the last balls inside the cone. Place base inside the cone, gently invert cone and slide off the metal cone. Using reserved isomalt mixture, dip butterflies into mixture and fix to top of croquembouche.

Note: I built my croquembouche from scratch, although it was too tall to stand by itself. I may have needed to use more toffee to hold it together. I would make a smaller one in the future.