That’s the question of the week! My feeling at this stage is no mold. Or at any rate nothing made of metal, poster board or any of those sorts of substrates. The way I see it the challenges of a croquembouche are twofold: 1.) building it in such a way that it appears tall and graceful, not like a heap of paving stones, which can happen if you don’t have some sort of conical guide, and; 2. building it in such a way that it doesn’t lean, slump or tip over completely.
In an attempt to overcome challenge #1, many aspiring croquembouche makers construct witches hat-looking cones make of cardboard. They then build the pastry inside it, upside-down. When the caramel has cooled they up-end the croquembouche and remove the cardboard. The problem is that the cardboard doesn’t always come away cleanly and you’re left with unsightly bits of paper stuck on (or in) the candy. Another problem with the technique is that it’s all but impossible to judge how well your croque is going to stand up when it’s done, since you built it upside-down.
Metal croquembouche molds solve the problem by giving you a solid base to build around rather than inside of. It’s easy to remove if it’s been properly lubricated, so no problem there. Me, I just don’t like those things, in part because the shape is a little too squat for my liking, in part because it’s a one-use metal mold that costs a fair amount of money and that’ll just take up space on my gear shelves.
So my plan is to use paper. Silicone-coated parchment paper to be precise, which I’ll cut and form into a cone and place upright on a plate. Using it as a building guide I’ll stack the cream puffs around it, and when the tower has cooled, simply remove the paper. That’s the plan at any rate. I’ll let you know if it changes.