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Croquembouche

This is a traditional French celebration cake. Its French name means "crack in the mouth", an apt description of the wonderful combination of toffee crisp caramel and choux pastry.

ingredients

8 oz (225 g) flour
1 oz (25 g) icing sugar
4 oz (125 g) butter
3 egg yolks
6 quantities Choux Pastry
3 quantities Creme Patissiere or 2 1/2 pints (1.5 litres) whipped double cream
1 1/2 lb (700 g) sugar
12 fl oz (360 ml) water
small flowers

caramel threads:

7 oz (200 g) sugar
6 tbsps (90 ml) water
pinch of cream of tartar

method

1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter finely and stir in the egg yolks to make a firm dough.

2. Roll the dough to an 11 inch (28 cm) round and place on a greased baking tray.

3. Bake at Mark 6 (200°C) 400°F for 20 minutes. Cool pastry base on a wire rack.

4. Pipe at least 150 small choux balls on to an oiled baking tray and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Pierce balls and cool on a wire rack.

5. Inject each ball with a little creme patissiere or cream, from a piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2 inch (1 cm) nozzle.

6. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat, stirring. Then bring to the boil without stirring until the syrup turns rich golden brown. Remove from the heat.

7. Lightly oil a Croquembouche mould or a large cardboard cone. Cover with nonstick paper— but do not attach the paper to the mould, as it must slip off freely later.

8. Using tongs, dip the top of each choux ball in caramel and arrange them round the outside of the mould, building up the layers to completely cover the mould. The caramel will harden quickly to hold the pyramid together.

9. When set, very carefully slip out the mould, gently peel away the paper from the inside of the pyramid and set the pyramid on the pastry base. Just before finishing, slip small flowers in between the buns.

10. Decorate with caramel threads. Make a syrup, as before, using 7 oz (200 g) sugar and 6 tbsps (90 ml) water, adding the cream of tartar. Boil until it becomes a golden, caramel colour. Remove from the heat immediately.

11. Dip two forks into the caramel and quickly lift out threads and spin them round the Croquembouche. Repeat to cover completely.

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