This is my somewhat speedy and rustic(!) take on the classic croquembouche, but made smaller and with different flavours: I have filled the choux buns with a lemongrass flavoured crème patissière, topped with a ginger flavoured caramel and decorated with a few thin slices of stem ginger coated with caramel and thin shards of roughly spun sugar.
These took about an hour to make, owing to the crème patissière being left over from a soufflé made day before: while the choux pastry was cooling the caramel was made, leaving just a filling and quick assembly job!
I once made a huge croquembouche using a (cleaned!) traffic cone to guide the construction and then, guiltily and in the middle of the night in case someone saw, returned the cone to the road! Great fun to make.
Rather than aiming for the impressive height of a traditional French wedding cake to serve many, this scaled-down version was done as a fun dessert. You can, of course, scale up the components to form a full-on tower of choux delights and decorate with sugared almonds, larger swathes of spun sugar, edible flowers…..extravagant for sure but fun to put together and quite stunning both to look at and to eat.
A little ground ginger is sifted with the flour for the choux pastry, to give just a hint of ginger. Blitzing the lemongrass with the milk for a few seconds releases a lot of its flavour, giving a filling that is beautifully scented and has a clear, but not over-the-top hit of lemongrass.
The caramelised stem ginger slices are divine just as they are: the sweetness from the sugar and the heat from the ginger is a truly fabulous combination.
The empty choux buns can be made at an earlier stage and frozen: just reheat for about 5 minutes or so at 180C to crisp up if needed.
Recipe: lemongrass & ginger croquembouche
I used the recipe for choux pastry, adding half a teaspoon of ground ginger to the flour
Lemongrass crème patissière:
- 6 egg yolks
- 120g caster sugar
- 35g plain flour, sifted
- 3 sticks of lemongrass
- 500ml whole milk
- 250g caster sugar
- 100ml water
- 80ml stem ginger syrup
- stem ginger, sliced thinly and patted dry
- spun sugar shards
- Make choux buns fairly small but consistent in size. Bake until golden brown and well risen. Pierce them in the base once baked and place hole upwards on wire racks to allow the steam to escape. Leave to cool.
- Make the crème patissière: blitz the lemongrass and milk in a blender for a few seconds. Add to a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave to infuse for about an hour.
- Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and flour together in a small bowl. Reheat the milk, pour it over the egg mixture, whisk to combine.
- Return the mixture to a pan and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. Allow to boil for a couple of minutes until thick. Strain into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool.
- Pipe the crème patissière into the holes of each bun, filling generously.
- Make the caramel: add the caramel ingredients to a pan and, without stirring, bring to the boil. A few gentle shakes to the pan are fine but if you stir it might crystallise. Boil until it turns a deep golden colour but don’t over-do it.
- Assembly: dip the stem ginger slices in the caramel and leave to set on parchment paper.
- Dip each bun carefully into the caramel and, starting with the bottom layer and working upwards, form a cone. You can have a hollow interior to the cone or pack the buns to have a more solid cone. Either way the caramel will act as a glue to stick the buns together but make sure you form each layer tightly. If the caramel starts to harden in the pan pop back over a low heat for a few minutes and it will become runny again.
- Drizzle over some of the caramel and decorate with the caramel-coated stem ginger and shards of spun sugar.