Valentine Croquembouche, #ValentineCroque

Welcome to our Valentine Croquembouche Challenge (#ValentineCroque). We are a group of intrepid bloggers who occasionally like to push ourselves well out of our comfort zone to meet baking challenges fearlessly. Jenni Field of Pastry Chef Online, whose tagline is Fearless in the Kitchen, challenged us to make Valentine’s-themed croquembouche. Traditionally, a croquembouche (French for “Crispy in Mouth”) is a tower of cream puffs filled with vanilla pastry cream and held together with caramelized sugar (the crispy part).

We are here to show you that you do not always have to be bound by tradition, so we created croquembouche that adhere to the spirit of the dish if not the actual letter. You’ll find all sorts of combinations of flavors here (including a savory version) that will hopefully expand your idea of croquembouche. Not all of our croques were wildly successful, but we all learned something, and we all pushed ourselves. Besides, blogging shouldn’t always be about aspirational and often unobtainable Pinterest moments. It should also be about the near misses and the journey we take when we take a chance.

Red valentines atop cream puffs dipped in pink candy melts.
Happy Croquembouche Valentine! 

Croquembouche, the cone-shaped cream puff tower traditionally served to royalty on French tables is a familiar sight in Japan’s cosmopolitan centers. Currently, over 500 Japanese chefs work in Paris. Many return to Japan and open their own restaurants and patisseries. The influence of French culinary training is evident to any foodie who gazes into a Japanese patisserie window. 

Japanese plum wine filling swirled into petite cream puffs.

A little sleuthing about which country has the most Michelin stars can be interesting. Some sites swear Japan and France are equally tied. Others declare Tokyo glitters with more 3-star Michelin restaurants - 14 to Paris’ 10.

Japanese plum wine cream fills my pink Valentine puffs.

At any rate, when Jenni, the Pastry Chef Online, ever so lovingly threw down the croquembouche gauntlet –– this Ninja Baker accepted the challenge. Here are a few lessons learned from the experience:

1. Many build a croquembouche by “gluing” them with sticky caramel sauce on to a steel or parchment paper cone. (A fact learned in the middle of constructing my croquembouche with mini cream puffs as if they were Lego pieces.)
2. The cream puffs on the said croquembouche tower are filled with pastry cream. (Confession: Anxious to complete this first-time task, I built my conical tower without filling the cream puffs first.)
3. Typically the cream filling of the cream puffs has a touch of liquor. (I got that one right for the leftover cream puffs. A mix of Japanese plum wine and American Cool Whip was piped into my petite pastries.)

Valentine Croquembouche

Light, airy cream puffs filled with Japanese plum wine cream will set any heart skipping with joy.....whether it's Valentine's Day or not!

Adapted from my dance classmate, Betty's recipe for cream puffs.

  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour plus a pinch of a salt
  • 3 (12 ounce) packages of pink candy melts
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package of vanilla instant pudding
  • 3½ tablespoons of Japanese plum wine
  • 1 (8 ounce) container of Cool Whip
  • Drops of pink food coloring

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt until scalded (just below boiling point).  When all the butter has melted, add the flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together and forms dough.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes until dough begins to coat the bottom of the pan.  Put the hot mixture into a food processor.  Add the 4 eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick. Pipe dough into mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  A mini ice cream scoop also works wonders.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn off oven and allow puffs to sit for another 10 minutes.  Make small slits in the side of each puff to allow steam to escape.  Set aside to cool.

Melt pink candy chocolate per package directions. Dip each cream puff top into the pink chocolate. (Use the same pink chocolate to stick the cream puffs onto a cone to create a croquembouche.) 

Whisk the plum wine, pudding mix and pink food coloring together. Gently stir in the Cool Whip. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or more. Fill piping bags with a star tip and fill the cream puffs.

Valentine Croquembouche Challenge

Thanks for joining us today. If you’re interested in participating in future challenges, please contact Jenni. 
Here's a link to inspiration: A Valentine Croquembouche Pinterest Board.

XOS may be guaranteed after a bite of Japanese plum wine filled cream puffs!

Wishing you a Valentine's Day as sweet as your heart heart

The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.



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