What exactly IS a croquembouche?

Glad you asked! A modern croquembouche is a cone-shaped tower of cream puffs. Some people like to say “profiteroles”, but that word makes me think of chocolate sauce. Also the brilliantly acted but gruesome 1989 cult film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Where are my %@#^$# profiteroles!!! I shiver just thinking about it.

Croquembouche means “crunch in the mouth”, an apt description for what happens when you bite into a piece, as the “glue” that holds the tower together is candy cooked nearly to the caramel stage. Croquembouche is traditionally served as a centerpiece for a wedding or baptism party, and is often decorated with almonds. Glossy caramel threads are another go-to croquembouche decoration. Sometimes a croquembouche stands on a base of nougatine, but I think I’ll skip that step. Or so I’m thinking at the moment. Any suggestions on they projects are, as usual, welcome.

22 thoughts on “What exactly IS a croquembouche?”

  1. I always thought that profiterole meant that the puff was stuffed with ice cream instead of custard.

        1. More than likely mine, Rainey! But I haven’t found a reference yet!

          – Joe

  2. I’ve seen various recipes that have different fillings for the ‘profiteroles’ – can you supply some options for that? (The most common I’ve seen is the ‘Boston Cream’ type, though my wife would prefer a plain fluffy vanilla, and I’d like the option to experiment with other Joe-Pastry-Approved flavors)

  3. I have a recipe where you fill the choux buns with a limoncello custard/creme patissiere. What are you planning on filling them with?

  4. Is there such a thing as a savory Croquembouche? I’ve always wondered how I could make a savory whipped cream filling that wasn’t sweet to stuff puffs or gougeres. I’ve successfully whipped cream with mascarpone cheese to stabilize it then whipped horseradish into it to serve with beef roast. I’d like another flavor to use in puffs as an appetizer. Carmelized onions or mushrooms? What else?

    1. In fact there are savory croquembouches. Or were. Apparently some of the very earliest were savory. But glued together with caramel? Sounds a bit odd. I need to do more research!


      – Joe

  5. Okay, I’ll admit it. Croquembouche makes me recall this Martha Stewart Christmas Special where she made it alongside Julia Child. I nearly died laughing. I wonder if it is on the internet….no. Dah!

    It was comic to see Martha’s perfect version next to Julia’s, and to hear Julia’s commentary on it. I recall thinking, “wait, is Martha Stewart trying to show up Julia Child?” I was so young back then and I still remember it. Ah…

    1. I’m going to look for that! I love watching Julia Child on TV. Martha not so much!

      – Joe

        1. Love that. Wow, they were making big ones. Martha’s looked to be solid puffs. That would be a very large event indeed!

          Thanks Rainey!

          – Joe

  6. Another question – I figure you’ll probably be going with your standard choux (filled appropriately) – how sweet can you go with that, i.e. would adding extra sugar to the choux be a detriment? I realize you run the risk of over-sweet (sweeter dough, caramel, sweet filling), but I’m thinking of something doughnut-level dough. Too much?

    (For those unaware, I’ve been hounding Joe to do this project for at least 6 months, and I’m ecstatic that he’s agreed to take it on!)

    1. Hey Roger!

      Interesting idea. Choux can’t handle much sugar, but that’s alright since the caramel and pastry cream will more than make up for any lapses. And I’m pleased to finally get around to it!

      – Joe

    1. Thanks for that, Katharine! Just as I suspected, the very rigid craquelin profiteroles are hard to stack and leave lots of space between one another. I think I’m leaning away from this technique for croquembouche. Hmmm….

      – Joe

  7. Beautiful creation, Joe, love the sugar flowers, tres elegant! Someone mentioned the episode with Julia Child and Martha S. making a croque – you can find it on YouTube easily. It’s really fun to see, and the difference in the styles of these two culinary icons is quickly evident. Watch it and you will surely smile. Martha shows how to make the spun caramel cloud to wrap around your croque, using a sawed off pastry wire whisk and newspaper on the floor. Good fun, oh yeah.

    1. Hey Lily!

      Yes I’ve seen that. Very funny stuff, watching Julia look slightly askance at Martha’s work, at least if I remember correctly. These are a lot of fun to make. A big project, but definitely worth it for the wow factor.

      Thanks for the email!

      – Joe

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