My wee baby has just turned 15. Not sure how that happened but she now towers over me and 'borrows' my rarely used makeup. She was away with a friend's family for her actual birthday but came back insisting upon a birthday cake and given that she's eventually planning an edible flower croquembouche for her wedding (I seriously hope I have a few years before that happens!) we decided to have a play. We used fresh viola flowers and dried cornflowers to decorate because they are pretty much the the only edible flower selection available the first week in January. I am really pleased with the result though as there is something very lovely about the pale blue of the violas and the brown of the chocolate. It pleases me and suits the wintery weather. I should also clarify, before the purest amongst you comment, that this is not a traditional Croqembouche with spun sugar as that is beyond my culinary skill and also Imy is a chocolate lover so it is more of a 'yummy profiterole tower'. When making one of these edible flower croquembouche you need to work out how many people you are feeding and work backwards if that makes any sense at all. We did it the other way around and ended up with a bald spot at the back of the tower (although that would not have been there had there not been so much 'quality control' sampling going on as we constructed). I used a 22cm cake stand so made my cone (think witches' hat that you made as a child - using stiff but bendable cardboard) with a base diameter of 18 cm. This left a couple of cms each side to wedge the bottom circle of profiteroles between the cone and the edge of the stand. You can buy ready made cones but they can be extremely expensive. When you've twisted your cone and fixed it with tape you will need to trim the bottom so that it sits level on your stand. Then fix it to the stand with a couple of bits of tape to stop it moving around. It did occur to me after I had finished that actually for about £10 one of the Lakeland Magic Oven Liners might be a worthy sacrifice to use to make the cone for a number of reasons. Firstly it is probably more hygienic that cardboard and less porous. Secondly it is wipeable and therefore resusable (although obviously not in the oven once it had been cut into a cone shape) and finally it's black which means that there are not going to be any glaring white holes showing if there are gaps between your choux buns). Worth a thought.. My cone (18cm in diameter resulted in a cone that was 25cm in height). This needed approximately 68 choux buns to completely cover it. Each bun when stuffed with cream was between 4 and 5 cm in diameter. These are pretty wee profiteroles though so you'd need at least 3 per person - 5 for a Billington gathering! Now if you are a better baker then me then there might be some sense in graduating the size of the choux buns to make the top ones smaller and the construction easier but we went with what we had and used a bit of melted chocolate sauce on the back of each one to act as mortar - gluing it to the cone. I would also suggest that this tower is constructed where and when you want it - or alternatively right next to an empty fridge where it can temporarily be stored and where the chocolate will harden to hold the whole thing together. We constructed in the kitchen and wanted to move it outside to take some pictures and had a disaster en route (visualise the falling rocks road sign). The 3 second rule applied! Also do take into account that the taller the tower and steeper the gradient then greater the opportunity for disaster. We had the choux buns already filled with cream in the fridge and warmed the sauce slightly to soften and it only took us 5 minutes to pile them up and decorate.
Choux Buns - using Gordon Ramsey's Recipe I used Gordon's recipe above. Why mess with rugged perfection hey! I doubled the mixture but piped them smaller so that I ended up with about 65 ish for the amount. Wasn't keen on Gordon's slightly wishy washy caramel sauce (not offence G). We were after serious chocolate ganache to fix the chocolate cravings and cement our super structure. Chocolate Ganache We used the chocolate ganache here from the Joy of Baking's profiterole Recipe. As the recipe amount was designed for 12 large profiteroles we multiplied it by 4 and would have had some left over to make a few truffles (as the recipe suggested) had we not cleared the bowl with our fingers. The edible flower croquembouche was decorate with a few dried cornflower petals and less than a box of violas which you can buy from us here. It would make a lovely centrepiece for a Wedding, Christening, Birthday or other celebration. Choux buns are surprisingly easy to make but if you are really not a confident cook you can easily buy them ready made and create this look with less than £9 worth of edible flowers.