Preheat the oven at 180°C - fan.
- Bring milk, sugar and vanilla seeds slowly to a boil in a pot.
- Place egg yolks and starch in a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer on high-speed for 2 minutes.
- Add the boiling milk while whisking, then pour back the mixture into the pot and over the heat. Whisk approx. 1 minute – or till the custard starts to thicken.
- Transfer to a bowl. Cover with cling film on the surface and place the custard in fridge until completely cooled before mixing with whipping cream.
Choux pastry – makes 24
- Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
- Prepare a piping bag with a 1,5 cm round nozzle.
- Bring water, butter and sugar to a boil in a saucepan.
- Add the flour and stir vigorously to a dough. Stir until the dough leaves the sides of the saucepan.
- Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and cool a bit.
- Add the eggs one at a time while mixing at medium speed. The pastry should be thick and quite sticky.
- Fill the piping bag with the pastry and pipe 12 mounds (4 cm in diameter) onto each of the trays with space around each mound (the pastry will double in size while baking). Use a wet finger to gently push down any peaks.
- Bake approx. 25 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven while baking, it will make the pasty collapse!
- Transfer to a baking rack and cool completely before filling.
- Place the chocolate in a bowl.
- Warm up the cream to just below the boiling point and pour immediately over the chocolate.
- Leave for two minutes, then stir until smooth. Cool the chocolate sauce slightly.
- Whip the cream and mix gently with the custard.
- Spoon the vanilla cream into a piping bag fitted with a small ½ cm round nozzle.
- Poke a small hole with a knife in the bottom of each profiterole and fill each one with vanilla cream.
- Stack the filled profiteroles on a cake stand in a round pyramid shape and pour over your slightly warm chocolate sauce just before serving.
TIP: Sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts if you like a bit of crunch.
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Impressive pastries with your favourite filling
Sweet, crispy, creamy, and delicious. And if you put them together as a tower, you get a fancy dessert that serves as a tasty and impressive treat. It is beautiful enough to also serve as a centre piece that will cause quite the spectacle with its decorative and stylish look.
Probably the best thing about a profiterole tower is the filling and if you need any profiterole filling ideas, you have come to the right place. You can almost do anything you want as long as the filling is creamy and firm. Use strawberries, chocolate or a salted caramel filling. Even though vanilla profiteroles are the standard, you can do whatever your imagination tells you to – simply look for a custard with a flavour to your liking and fill your profiteroles with it before assembling your profiterole tower.
There is more to a profiterole tower than the filling. Traditionally, it is assembled with caramel, but you can also use chocolate to glue the profiteroles together. Sometimes it is decorated with macarons in beautiful colours or colourful icing. Use berries or decorative flowers and caramel threads to give it your very own, personal touch.
Profiterole tower or croquembouche?
Have you ever heard the word "croquembouche"? It sounds French, it is indeed French, and it roughly translates to "crunches in the mouth". You might know it as profiteroles and in French it is actually "croque-en-bouche", but no matter what you call it, a profiterole tower or croquembouche is a delicious, elaborate and impressive dessert to serve for your guests.
So, what is a profiterole and how does it become a croquembouche or profiterole tower? It is a small pastry ball made of choux pastry. It uses steam to rise and puff instead of a raising agent such as baking powder or baking soda. This makes the baking process a bit different than what you might be used to, but you will end up with a delicate and puffy dessert that you can fill with velvety soft custard. You glue the profiteroles together using caramel, icing or chocolate to create a cone-shaped tower: the croquembouche.
How to make a profiterole tower – the easy way
"Is there an easy way?" you might think. Well, a croquembouche recipe will always be long and a bit complicated, but you can make it easier for yourself. The easiest way is to do exactly as explained in this recipe: make a round pyramid with your profiteroles directly on a plate or serving tray.
However, if you want to make a more classic profiterole tower, you will need caramel to glue the profiteroles together and a cone to make the right shape.
You need a considerable number of profiteroles to make a tower. This profiterole recipe serves 8 people with 24 profiteroles. You can multiply that to see how much you need to serve more people and make a bigger tower. But it is not all about the number of profiteroles. A perfect croquembouche is cone-shaped which require you to know exactly how many profiteroles you will need for a specific cone diameter and height.
- 60 to 65 profiteroles = diameter base: 12 cm (14.5 inches), height: 26 cm (66 inches)
- 80 to 85 profiteroles = diameter base: 13 cm (33 inches), height: 36 cm (91.4 inches)
- 100 to 105 profiteroles = diameter base: 15 cm (38 inches), height: 42 cm (106.7 inches)
When assembling the croquembouche with a cone, you can either do it from the outside or the inside of the cone. From the outside, you start from the base and work your way up. Detach the croquembouche from the cone and place it on a tray or plate for serving. From the inside, you turn the cone around and start from the top. First, brush the inside of the cone lightly with kitchen oil to make it detach more easily.
No matter which technique you use, make sure that the caramel or whatever you use as glue does not touch the cone but only the profiteroles. If it touches the cone, you will not be able to detach your profiterole tower in one piece.
Good to know about profiteroles
Get to know all about profiteroles before throwing yourself into making a croquembouche. It is not an easy project, so make a bit of research before getting started to ensure a satisfyingly flavourful and delicious result.
Why do my profiteroles not rise?
There can be several reasons why your profiteroles do not rise as the choux pastry is a bit tricky. First of all, you need to cook the flour, and it needs enough heat for the gluten to react and the water to be absorbed by the flour. If this is not done, your profiteroles will not rise. Choux pastry uses moisture to rise, so if there is not enough in the dough, you will end up with very flat and dry profiteroles.
Another problem might occur if you use too much egg. The dough will get runny and your profiteroles will not rise in the oven. Never add flour to the dough after adding the eggs even if it is runny. Instead, if you have added too much egg, make a new half portion of choux pastry without eggs, cook it, and add it to the runny dough a bit at a time.
Where do profiteroles come from and who invented them?
A profiterole is a French pastry, but it was actually invented by an Italian chef in France. He came to the French court around 1530 and started developing the special choux pastry. After that, several French chefs kept developing the pastries until they had the profiterole, that we know and enjoy today, in front of them.
In the late 1700s, another French chef is said to have developed the croquembouche, or profiterole tower. So, the history of croquembouche dates way back to when it was usually seen as a traditional wedding cake or as a beautiful centre piece at the royal court.
What are profiteroles made of?
Profiteroles are made of a special choux pastry consisting of water, butter, sugar, plain flour, and eggs. It is the butter that makes the profiteroles the deliciously sweet pastries that we know instead of having a more bread-like consistency. It makes the choux pastry richer and more flavourful. We recommend Lurpak® unsalted butter as you should always use unsalted butter to get the best taste in your profiteroles.
Traditionally, you fill the baked profiteroles with a filling of crème pâtissière, which is a French vanilla custard.
Can I make profiteroles in advance?
You can make the choux pastry 1-2 days in advance. Store it in the fridge either in a bowl or directly in the piping bag. You can also freeze the dough for up to three months before thawing it overnight in the fridge and using it the day after. You can also freeze the freshly baked profiteroles and use them when you are ready.
When making a croquembouche you should not wait more than 8 hours after assembly to serve – preferable less to avoid it getting soggy or falling apart.