Saturday, February 7, 2015

Caramel Coated Cream Puffs: A Croquembouche Deconstructed

I ate. I swooned. I asked where I could get more cream puffs.  

Last fall, my friend showed up at my door with the top tier of a croquembouche. Have you ever seen a croquembouche? The name comes from the French phrase that means to crunch in the mouth. A croquembouche is a glorious tower of cream puffs dipped in a hard caramel shell. 

My first exposure to croquembouche was watching a Martha Stewart Christmas VHS tape when I was in high school. Yes, it was way back when. The video was compelling and I have never forgotten how Martha made it look easy to waft spun sugar onto the tower of cream puffs. You can watch a portion of it here - the construction of the dessert begins at time marker 4:20.

Until last fall, I had never had the opportunity to taste a croquembouche and the "cream puffs" I had tried were merely puff pastry shells with flavored whipped cream inside. Meh.

Then my friend stopped by and told me that she had brought me a treat from a party the night before. Her friend had ordered an enormous croquembouche from Le Petit Prince for the centerpiece of a buffet and it had been treated more like art than dessert. She sent the entire top of the tower home with my friend. French pastries wait for no man and you have to eat them while they are fresh. Twist my arm.

When I reached to pull a puff from the tower, I had no idea that I would think back to this dessert time and again. Rum spiked cream inside a tender puff coated in a crunchy caramel shell. Oh me, oh my. No wonder Martha Stewart took the time to make this for her video, it is delicious! Here is a recipe from Saveur magazine if you want to try it.

So the other day I broke down and called Le Petit Prince in Birmingham Michigan to ask about that glorious croquembouche. Is there anything similar that they make and sell separately?  I told them that I didn't have an event worthy of an entire tower, but that I really wanted to eat a puff again! If I'm thinking about a dessert 6 months later, I've got to have it again. I was thrilled to hear that the puffs are sold individually and I ordered a dozen on the spot. Happy Valentine's Day to us.

It may seem outrageous to order a dozen French pastries on a whim, but I'll tell you why I did it. 

#1 A business that makes labor intensive dessert needs support. 
#2 If I'm going to ask them to make a special order, the order need to be worth      their while. A dozen made sense.  
#3 Life is for living.

 Remember, it's the 12 Days of Valentine's Day and everything counts

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