Orange Croquembouche-Éclair

Temps des Fêtes 2015
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food and drink

BY: Joanne Yolles

Croquembouche, or “crack in the mouth” as it translates, is a traditional holiday extravaganza. Here we have a mash-up between that, and another classic, the éclair. Instead of stacking the choux puffs in a tower, the puffs are dipped in caramel and attached side by side. This may be just the dessert for a more formal dinner party. There are indeed several steps, but plan ahead and then relish the oohs and aahs. A Silpat baking sheet works well when it comes to dipping the puffs in caramel, but if you don’t have one, parchment paper is a suitable substitute. Orange oil, as opposed to the more common orange extract, packs a flavour punch for the cream filling. Look for the Boyajian brand at specialty food shops.

CANDIED KUMQUATS

12 kumquats
1¼ cups (310 mL) sugar
¾ cup (175 mL) water

PASTRY CREAM

1 cup (250 mL) milk
¼ cup (60 mL) sugar
½ vanilla bean
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
2 tbsp (30 mL) cornstarch
3 egg yolks
2½ tbsp (37 mL) unsalted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) orange oil
¼ cup (60 mL) whipping cream

CHOUX PASTRY

¼ cup (60 mL) milk
¼ cup (60 mL) water
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ tsp (2 mL) sugar
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
½ cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 eggs

ORANGE CARAMEL

Rind of 2 oranges
1½ cups (375 mL) sugar
½ cup (125 mL) water
¼ cup (60 mL) light corn syrup
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped, for garnish

1 For the candied kumquats, cut the kumquats into ¼-inch (5-mm) slices, discarding the stem ends. Poke the seeds out with the tip of a paring knife and discard. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the kumquat slices, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes or until the kumquats are tender and translucent. Remove from heat and allow the kumquats to cool in the syrup. Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

2 For the pastry cream, combine the milk and half the sugar in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the black seeds into the milk. Add the pod and the grated orange rind. Place the pot over medium heat.

3 Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks, and whisk until smooth.

4 When the milk mixture comes to a boil, add it to the yolk mixture, whisking until smooth. Strain back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, followed by the orange oil. Transfer the pastry cream to a medium bowl, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and chill completely. Place the whipping cream in a separate bowl and reserve in the fridge.

5 Centre the oven rack and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

6 For pastry, in a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt. Place over low heat until the butter is fully melted. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a full boil. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir immediately with a wooden spoon until the flour is fully incorporated. Place the pan back on medium heat and cook, stirring all the while, for 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture is ready when it congeals in a lump and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan.

7 Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for about 30 seconds to release some of the steam. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing until incorporated.

8 Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch (1-cm) round tip. Pipe mounds of dough about 11/8 inches (3 cm) in diameter, spacing them about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. You should have 40 to 42 in all.

9 Dip a fork in cold water and press down gently on the top of each mound of dough.

10 Place in the oven and bake until the puffs rise and begin to brown, about 16 to 18 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C) and continue baking until the puffs are completely dry and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. For extra crispness, poke a small hole in the bottom of each puff with the point of a small paring knife. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

11 For the orange caramel, remove the rind of 2 oranges (the orange part only) with a sharp paring knife (or a serrated peeler). You should have strips about ¼ inch (5 mm) wide. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the strips of orange rind. Simmer for 1 minute, then strain, discarding the water.

12 Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Add the ½ cup (125 mL) water carefully so no sugar crystals adhere to the sides of the pan. Add the corn syrup. Place the pan over medium heat and place a lid or heatproof bowl over top. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil. Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove the lid. Add the orange rind and reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue simmering the orange peel for 10 minutes or until the peel is tender and translucent. Using a fork, transfer the peel to a parchment-lined sheet.

13 Increase the heat to medium and continue boiling the syrup until it turns a light golden brown, about 325°F (160°C) on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and dip into a bowl of cold water for a couple of seconds.

14 Using tongs, dip the top of 1 puff into the caramel and place, top-side down, on a Silpat baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dip the top and the side of a second puff into the caramel and place upside down, attaching it to the first puff. Continue with 2 more puffs, making 4 in all. Continue with remaining puffs, creating 10 servings in all. If the caramel becomes too stiff before all the puffs have been dipped, place the pot back over low heat and warm the caramel gently just to liquefy. 

15 Beat the ¼ cup (60 mL) of chilled whipping cream to stiff peaks. Gently whisk the cooled pastry cream just to soften it slightly and fold in the whipped cream.

16 Transfer the cream to a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch (5-mm) plain tip. Fill each puff with the cream, then turn over carefully so the individual puffs remain intact and are caramel-side up.

17 For the spun sugar garnish, re-heat the caramel syrup just until it is fluid, but slightly thick. Dip a fork in the syrup and wave it quickly back and forth over a parchment-lined baking sheet to create thin sugar strands. If the strands are not forming, cool the syrup a little more. If the strands are very thick and lumpy, re-heat the syrup slightly. Continue dipping the fork in the syrup and “spinning” the sugar. Gather the strands together and place over the eclairs. The eclairs can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving.

18 Garnish each plate with the candied orange peel, kumquats and finely chopped pistachio nuts.

Serves 10

What to Serve