As some of you know I am back in Australia on holiday at the moment and though I had every intention of getting my post for this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop up when it opened, things haven’t quite gone to plan. But that’s ok, because I have been spending some quality time with my adorable niece and nephew who I hadn’t seen for a whole year before this week. I know I’m biased, but honestly, would you be able to concentrate on anything other than this little munchkin if she was standing infront of you?
I have managed to drag myself away in a bid to get this up before the hop closes, but before I go on, I just have do a quick plug and ask for your support in the Best Australian Blogs Competition 2012 which is running at the moment. I am excited that Appetite for Discovery is among over a thousand great Australian blogs that have been nominated and if you have 5 minutes to spare I would be super grateful for your vote for the People’s Choice Award.
Votes can be cast here and all you have to do is tick the box next to the name of the blog(s) you would like to vote for (Appetite for Discovery is on the first page) then click next to go through to the end where you enter your name and email address. You don’t have to set up an account or anything like that. Voting is open to all and closes on Thursday 9th May so if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter please forgive my occasional touting as the deadline approaches!
Now. On to the important stuff. Lemons. That was the theme of this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop hosted by Jennifer from Delicieux. I love lemons. Sweet, savoury, however they come, but unlike previous hops when I knew exactly what I was going to make almost immediately, I struggled to make a decision with this one.
Then, when catching up with a friend who was visiting from the UK, she reminded me about her boyfriend’s mum’s profiteroles which have earned quite a reputation among our group of friends over the years. If you’ve read this post you might recall me telling you about the cookbook my mother-in-law presented us with at our wedding containing the favourite recipes of our friends and family. The recipe for these famous profiteroles made it into the book and although I had looked at it many times I hadn’t got around to making them. While admitting this to her, I figured the time had finally come to give them a shot, with a lemony twist.
I had spotted some lavender sugar in Waitrose the week before and was itching for an excuse to use it. I had also just bought a jar of organic lemon curd from Marks and Spencer (I know, I know, I’ll be making my own soon!) and so my decision was finally made.
I think the reason it took me so long to try the profiterole recipe was that they struck me as a fairly complicated and challenging dessert. Watching the Australian Masterchef contestants struggle to recreate Adriano Zumbo’s amazing croquembouche probably didn’t help allay my fears – if you fancy giving his masterpiece a go you can find the recipe here.
Actually, to be honest, the decision to make a croquembouche rather than just leaving the profiteroles as they were was quite last minute when I decided that would be the nicest way to present them. I was planning on taking them to an Easter party so it was a good excuse to go to the extra effort. The end result was perhaps a little wonky but acceptable for a first attempt I thought, and although a little time consuming, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was compared to my expectations.
Unfortunately I couldn’t really taste the lavender and as I’m not a super sweet tooth I found the lemon curd made the filling sweet enough so I probably won’t add the sugar next time but some of my taste testers didn’t find it too sweet. Have you cooked with lavender? How did you extract the flavour?Croquembouche with Lemon Curd & Lavender Cream (makes approximately 30 profiteroles - adapted from my friend’s Mum’s much loved recipe)
For the choux pastry:160g (1 cup) plain flour
250ml (1 cup) water
4 eggs For the lemon curd & lavender cream filling:
(adapted from this recipe in The Independent) 5 tbsp lemon curd
500ml whipping cream
2-3 tsp lavender sugar (you can buy it or make your own – makes a nice gift)
For the caramel & decoration:150g caster sugar 2 tbsp water
sprigs of lavender (optional)
Place a bowl for your cream and the metal beater attachments for your electric beater in the freezer.
Pre heat the oven to 200C. Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside. Place the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the sifted flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball (this will take around 3 minutes). Put the ball of dough into a large bowl and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes until it is just warm.
Add the eggs one at a time and use an electric beater to mix well after each addition. The mixture will be quite sticky.
Line one or two baking sheets with baking parchment (if you only have one you will need to bake the profiteroles in two batches as I did). Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture on to the sheet(s) leaving space in between for them to rise – I think I had 3 rows of 5 but it will depend on the size of your baking sheet. Dip your finger in a glass of water to stop it from sticking and use it to push down any peaks on the spoonfuls of mixture (so they don’t burn), and rounded shape. Place in the pre heated oven. After 10 minutes turn the oven down to 180C and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the profiteroles are golden.
At this stage, remove them from the oven and carefully twist the point of a small knife into the base of each roll to make a small hole to allow the steam to escape (this is where you will insert the filling later on so make sure it’s wide enough for your piping nozzle). Place the profiteroles back on the baking tray hole side up and bake for another 5 minutes to dry them out. Remove and place on a rack to cool. If making two batches put your second batch in the oven now and repeat steps outlined above.
While your profiteroles are cooling you can make the lemon curd and lavender cream filling. The sugar I used was granulated so I broke it down to a finer grain using my flavour shaker. You could also blitz it in your food processor or wrap it in a tea towel and use a rolling pin – or not bother at all if you are happy with the larger granules!
Get your pre chilled bowl and beater attachments from the freezer. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the sugar (I removed the pieces of lavender from the sugar before adding). Beat for a good few minutes until it holds firm peaks. Add the lemon curd to your taste and beat until well incorporated. Cover and put in the fridge if you are still waiting for your profiteroles to cool.
When you are close to serving time (you can make the profiteroles in advance and set aside for a while but I would still suggest doing this the same day as serving) and your profiteroles have completely cooled, it is time to fill them and assemble the croquembouche. Half fill a piping bag with the lemon curd cream mixture and pipe into each profiterole until full (you will feel gentle resistance and the cream will start to spurt out not long after that!)
Next move on to the caramel. Place the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a rapid boil and light caramel (around 160 degrees if you are using a thermometer). When it has reached this stage take off the heat to stop it cooking – you can run the base of the pan under cold water to speed up this process but you don’t want it to cool too much or it will go hard. If it does get too hard place back on the heat again to soften it up.
Using a knife or the back of a spoon, spread a bit of the hot caramel on the bottom of each profiterole, one by one, (be careful it is HOT and I have blisters to prove it) and stick them to a plate or cake board to form a circular base. I used about nine for my base and worked my way up to one. Before spreading the caramel on, roughly work out which profiteroles you’re going to put where on each layer as some will fit together better than others. The caramel will set fairly quickly.
You can use the remaining caramel for the spun sugar decoration (you may need to heat it again by now). I followed the technique shown in this video (at around 5:50 minutes) using two forks to kind of wrap the spun sugar around the croquembouche.
For the final touches, place some raspberries randomly in the gaps between the profiteroles and sprinkle with some lavender flowers. Spread a little bit of caramel on the top and use it to secure three raspberries and a spring or two of lavender if using.
This post is part of the Sweet Adventures “Lemons” Blog Hop hosted by Jennifer from Delicieux. If you’d like to join the hop, click here for instructions. To see other entries in the hop, click on the thumbnail images below. Learn more about the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop here.