Croquembouche, meaning ‘crunch in the mouth’, is a traditional French dessert often served at celebrations such as weddings. If you prefer, you can assemble the puffs to make one large croquembouche. Start with a large circle of puffs at the base (an odd number of puffs seems to work best) and gradually assemble the layers to form a pyramid shape.
1 quantity choux pastry, made into 40 choux puffs, cooled.
700 g (1 lb 9 oz/3 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
Coffee cream filling
1½ tablespoons instant coffee granules
400 g (14 oz) mascarpone
60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) icing (confectioners') sugar
2 tablespoons pouring cream
1. To make the coffee cream filling, dissolve the coffee in 1 tablespoon boiling water. Put the mascarpone, icing sugar, cream and coffee mixture in a bowl. Using electric beaters, combine well.
2. Place the filling in a piping bag fitted with a nozzle less than 1 cm (½ inch) in diameter. Using the end of a teaspoon, make a small hole in the base of each choux puff, then pipe the filling into the puffs.
3. To make a caramel, put the sugar and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water in a heavy-based saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, for 20 minutes, or until the mixture turns a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and immediately put the saucepan into a large bowl of cold water to stop the caramel cooking further.
4. To assemble, dip the base of three puffs into the caramel and place them together on a serving plate to form a triangular shape. Dip the base of a fourth puff into the caramel and place on top of the triangle, in the centre, to form a small pyramid. Repeat to make 10 individual pyramids in total.
5. Dip two forks into the remaining caramel, then rub the backs of the forks together until the caramel begins to stick. Gently pull the forks apart to check whether the caramel is cool enough to spin. If it drips, it probably needs longer to cool. When the caramel forms fine threads of toffee, spin it around each croquembouche until they are covered with fine threads of toffee. Serve immediately.