Drawing inspiration from French patisserie, this Caramel Dessert with pastry cream ( the Italian crema pasticcera) is an alternative idea to turn bignè into a shimmering and striking Christmas dessert.
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FOR PASTRY PUFFS
- 165g unsalted butter (12 tbs)
- 1,5g salt (1/4 ts)
- 4,5g sugar (1 ts)
- 180g sifted all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups)
- 6 large eggs
- 185ml water (12 tbs)
FOR PASTRY CREAM
- 6 large egg yolks
- 100g sugar (1/2 cup)
- 60g sifted all-purpose flour (1/2 cup)
- 450-500ml milk (2 cups)
- 40g unsalted butter (3 tbs)
- 250g granulated sugar (1 1/4 cup)
- 150ml glucose syrup (10 tbs)
- 100ml water (a little less than 7 tbs)
To make the puffs:
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in 185 ml of water with salt and sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, and add flour. Return the pan to heat and, with a wooden spoon, beat vigorously until a film forms on the bottom of the pan.
- Cool slightly, and then add 6 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously. To speed up the process you can use a stand-mixer to mix the eggs. Fit the dough hook, pour the flour mixture in the stand-mixer bowl and mix at low speed one egg at the time until you get a smooth dough.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (static oven).
- Using a pastry bag fitted with a 13-15 mm-wide plain tip(1/2-inch), pipe out the puffs that are 2cm (3/4 inch) in diameter on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with a little water, and smooth the top of the puffs.
- Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let them cool on racks.
To make the pastry cream:
- Place the milk over medium heat. Cook until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl until well combined. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat. Cook, while stirring steadily in the same direction, until the cream thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat.
- Just before assembling the croquembouche, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 0,5-0,6cm-wide tip (1/4-inch) with the pastry cream, insert the tip into puffs, and pipe in the cream to fill.
To make the caramel:
- In a medium saucepan, combine 100ml water, sugar, and glucose syrup. Cook it in a Bain-Marie reaching the temperature of 155°C. Cook until the caramel is amber in color. Remove from heat. Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel, and arrange the puffs in a pyramid.
To make the sugar web around the bignè:
- Use a big fork and dip the ends into the hot caramel. Wave the caramel back and forth over the bignè, allowing the strands to fall in long, thin threads around it. Wrap any stray strands up and around the cake.