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I was so inspired while watching MasterChef [1]when Adriano Zumbo [2] brought out a massive Croquembouche [3](a custard filled profiterole stack covered in toffee/caramel).

Hearing the crispy crunch as the contestants bite through the toffee covering layer, then seeing the thick custard and lovely fresh choux pastry… I just melted. I wished badly that I could be there trying one. (Maybe not competing – it seemed very stressful, with contestants burning their hands left, right and centre.)

After such a good recommendation (of stress and burnings) – why wouldn’t I give it a go? 😛 Well I hoped that doing it at home without as much stress would allow the experience to be a good one.

I just needed a reason to make one, and what better than a “Welcome Home” dinner? (You would want to leave and come back every week if this was your reward for returning… or at least I would).

Can I just say… this is truly the BEST, most FANTASTIC custard ever!!!! (sorry I didn’t get a photo that did it justice) The whole combination of choux pastry, custard and toffee was just amazing! I will definitely make this again, but next time I will be a bit more careful with the toffee…

I made the quantities given on the MasterChef website [3] (check out their video), and it ended up making around 180 profiteroles (8 trays worth) and enough custard to fill half of them, with enough toffee to coat those with custard. As we had so many pastry shells left over, we filled half of the remaining profiteroles with vanilla whipped cream and dipped the top in melted dark chocolate. For this reason I would suggest making half the quantity of profiteroles (or if you only want one small Croquembouche, make a quarter of the profiteroles and half of each the custard and toffee). Due to the excess in cooking, I ended up taking a small tower and some chocolate ones to work… those poor people 😛

I found the toffee didn’t last very well for the next day, I’m not sure of the best way to store this overnight if you make it in advance, but I’m sure the custard could be made the day before, I’ve also heard the profiteroles can be made in advance… I’ll try and get back to you on what works….

Recipe from Adriano Zumbo on MasterChef Australia [3]

Choux pastry:
425g Water
530g Milk
20g Sugar
20g Salt
400g Butter
530g Flour
16 Eggs

Pastry cream:
1300ml Milk
330g Eggs Yolks (around 18)
330g Sugar
130g Cornflour
130g Butter
2 Vanilla beans

660g Sugar
200g Water
260g Glucose

To make the pastry cream, place milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Heat gently until the milk almost boils. Remove from the heat, whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl until thick and pale. Gradually whisk in the warm milk. Return mixture to same saucepan and stir over medium heat until the custard boils. Spread over a tray to cool rapidly. Cover the surface of the custard closely with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming, at 55°C transfer to a bowl and stir through butter and refrigerate to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celsius convection. Lightly grease 4 oven trays and set aside. Combine the butter with water, sugar, milk & salt 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 to the heat and continue beating until the mixture comes together and leaves the side of the pan. Cook, beating over low heat for 1-2 minutes to cook flour. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Transfer to a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture to release any more heat. 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. Beat for a few more minutes, or until thickened.

Spoon the mixture, in batches, into a piping bag fitted with a 1.25-1.5cm nozzle. Cover remaining pastry with cling film. Pipe mixture onto trays about 3cm 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.

Put custard into a piping bag with a nozzle less than 1cm. Poke a small hole in the base of each puff and fill with custard.

For the caramel, combine water and sugar in a saucepan until it boils add glucose, and cook until caramel in colour. Remove from the heat and dip the base of the pan in a bowl of water to cool slightly. Grease a cake ring and place ring mould on a baking paper lined tray, pour enough caramel to coat the base 5mm. This is the base for the croquembouche. (I didn’t make this base)
Dip the puff bases in enough toffee to coat and place upside down on a tray lined with baking paper.

(I just put a bit of toffee on the base of the profiteroles in a line so I could still hold the edges of the base. I then dipped the top in the toffee and stacked the profiteroles making a cone shape, sticking them together with extra toffee if needed)

To assemble, oil the croquembouche cone. Dip the sides of the puff balls in the toffee one at a time and place around the base of the cone. Continue adding balls until the cone is covered.
Transfer the base for the croquembouche to a serving plate. Place a small amount of caramel on the base. Grasp croquembouche gently and lift from the cone and place on the caramel base.

Re-heat the remaining toffee then dip two forks back to back in it. Spin toffee around the Croquembouche. Decorate with violets.