The Grand Finale
Now comes the fun part … gluing your puffs together into a conical tower of sugary doom. Many chefs use a cone shaped mold to build their croquembouch. It is made of stainless steel, and available at better cookware stores. I do not like to use this mold, simply because it looks AWFUL when the guests start picking off puffs. I prefer to go commando building it layer by layer, filling the center with puffs, and letting them support themselves. It looks slightly less awful when the hordes have at it.
3 cups granulated sugar
1-2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Combine sugar and enough water to create a “wet-sand” texture. Wipe down the sides of the pan so that they are free of sugar crystals, then place on the stove, over high heat. DO NOT STIR OR MOVE THE POT AT ALL!!!!!!!!
- At the boil, add lemon juice. This will prevent crystallization. Cook until the sugar turns a golden amber, then turn of the heat, and let sit 5 minutes. (NO STIRRING!) This step is important because if the sugar is too hot, it will not stick to your puffs. As you glue, you may need to re-warm the sugar. This can successfully be done once or twice before it starts to crystallize. (This is the only time you are allowed to stir, to re-heat evenly. But it will promote crystallization, so be prepared.) This is because the puffs inevitably leave a little of themselves behind in the pot as they are dipped, and the sugar doesn’t like that. Know going in that it is frequently necessary make a brand new batch of sugar.
- Working on your serving platter or a foil covered cardboard circle, arrange puffs in a 10-inch circle. Take each puff, and aiming for the side of the puff that will attach to its neighbor, dip it into the caramel then stick it to the neighboring puff. Repeat until all the puffs in the 10-inch circle are glued together. Then fill in the center with puffs, each dipped in caramel a little.
- Now form another circle of puffs on top of the 10-inch circle, but slightly smaller, and repeat gluing in the same fashion. Fill in this layer too. Repeat until you have built a tall cone.
- To create spun sugar decoration, prepare a pot of sugar in the same way as above and allow it to rest 5 minutes or until it flows in steady streams, not drips, when lifted out with a spoon. Lay newspaper on the floor next to the stove, and have ready a dowel or wooden spoon handle. Use a pair of forks or an old whisk with its rounded ends cut off to dip into the sugar. Hold the dowel in one hand and the dripping whisk in the other, and wave the sugar over the dowel in very quick, back-and forth motions. You will see the sugar strands start to flow off your whisk and form over your dowel. When you have a thick layer, remover it carefully (it will be cool) and drape it around your croquembouch. Repeat until you have enough to suit your needs. If you live in a humid climate, this spun sugar will not last long, so do it at the last minute.
Here are some other ways to decorate your croquembouch … (a.k.a. the Hall of Shame):