I always wanted to try and make a croquembouche (or pièce montée for the French out there) but was afraid to tackle something that seemed so difficult and technical. That is, until I saw an episode of Masterchef Australia: All Stars last week, featuring Adriano Zumbo's recipe. For those who want to try it in its full measure, here's the link: http://www.masterchef.com.au/recipes/croquembouche-2012.htm
Personally, I divided everything by 4, which still yielded about 20 choux puffs, and made some adjustments of my own:
135ml whole milk
130g all-purpose flour
425ml whole milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
110g white sugar
45g corn flour
45g butter, diced, softened
150g white sugar
65ml corn syrup
For the choux pastry: Place butter, sugar, milk, salt and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and using a wooden spoon, quickly beat in the flour. Return to heat and continue beating until mixture comes together and leaves the side of the pan. Keep beating for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Transfer to a large bowl of a stand mixer. Using stand mixer, beat mixture to release any more heat. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, until all the eggs have been added and mixture is thick and glossy. Beat for a few more minutes, or until thickened.
Spoon the choux pastry batter into a large piping bag fitted with a 1.25-1.5cm round nozzle. Pipe mixture onto trays in mounds 3cm wide and 2cm high, leaving 5cm between each for spreading. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. They should feel firm and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer puffs to wire racks to cool.
For crème patissiere, stir the milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile whisk yolks, sugar and corn flour in a bowl until thick and pale. Using electric beaters fitted with whisk attachment, gradually whisk hot milk into the egg mixture. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan. Whisk over a medium heat until custard boils and thickens. Spread over a 4cm deep oven tray to cool rapidly. Cover the surface of the custard with a sheet of baking paper to prevent a skin forming.
When mixture has cooled to 55°C, transfer it to a large bowl and stir through butter until completely combined. Cover with baking paper. Refrigerate to cool completely.
Spoon cooled crème patissiere into a piping bag with a 5-8mm nozzle. Poke a small hole in the base of each puff and fill with crème patissiere.
For caramel, place sugar and water in a large wide based saucepan or deep frying pan, place over medium heat and cook without boiling until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil without stirring. Add corn syrup, cook until mixture is caramel in color. Remove from heat and dip base of pan in a large bowl of hot water to keep it from hardening.
Dip the top of each filled puff in a little caramel and place on a tray, forming circle upon circle (I used 6 puffs for the first circle, 5 for the second, 4 for the third, 3 for the fourth and one for the top).