Dessert

Salted Caramel Cream Puffs Are a Holiday Knockout—But One You Can Handle

Croquembouche gets the sheet-pan treatment.

December 19, 2018
Photo by Bobbi Lin

There’s a reason croquembouche—or a pyramid of cream puffs, bound together with caramel—is a go-to stand-in for a wedding cake. Besides being delicious (my husband likens it to “crème brûlée doughnuts”), croquembouche is enormous, the sort of pastry pièce de résistance anyone would stare at and think, Whoa! I could never do that.

But to heck with that, because you can.

This streamlined version skips the hard stuff and cuts right to the chase: You eating lots and lots of caramel-covered cream puffs, no gown or suit required. If there’s a more standout—or popular—dessert for the holidays, we need not know it.

Shop the Story

Grab a sheet pan and ditch the pyramid. Using caramel to stack pastries into a tower is a Great British Baking Show challenge that I did not sign up for. A rimmed sheet pan saves the day. The standard size (aka, half-sheet or 18 by 13 inches) fits almost 60 puffs—more than enough to feed most holiday gatherings—and you don’t have to worry about them toppling over before dessert.

Let a cookie scoop take the lead. Most pate a choux recipes tell you to transfer the dough to a piping bag, then hand-pipe equal-sized puffs. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that good at eyeballing stuff. Enter: my favorite kitchen gadget—the tablespoon-sized cookie scoop. Using this to portion the pate a choux makes this step of the recipe go way faster, and your puffs will look more professional, to boot.

Plastic baggies, too. To ensure that the baked pate a choux puffs don’t get soggy, I like to poke each one’s side with a knife right after they come out of the oven. The bonus: This hole is good for more than just venting steam—it’s also an entry point for the pastry cream. Which means there’s no need for a formal piping tip. (Does everyone have piping tips? I think not.) Just fill a lil’ plastic baggy with pastry cream and use scissors to snip one corner; start with a small snip, then adjust the size as needed.

Bring the caramel to the puffs. Not the puffs to the caramel! The first time I tried to dip cream puffs in just-cooked caramel, I burned my fingertips more times than I care to admit. This dunk is crucial when you’re building a pyramid—but we’re just cozying these cuties up on a sheet pan. So, instead of dunking the puffs in the caramel, we’ll spoon some caramel on top of the puffs. Plus, a sprinkle of flaky salt on top, because it really does make everything better.

Have you ever made croquembouche or cream puffs before? Tell us about it in the comments!

Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker
View Maker
Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker

Choose your holiday adventure! Our Automagic Menu Maker is here to help.

View Maker

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • MelissaH
    MelissaH
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Comment
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

6 Comments

Eric K. December 22, 2018
These are so gorgeous, Emma.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 23, 2018
Thank you, Eric!
 
MelissaH December 19, 2018
Would commercial dulce de leche work as a filling?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 19, 2018
Hi Melissa! I'm worried that might be a little too sweet, since there's more caramel on top. Maybe if you mix the dulce de leche with some whipped cream?
 
Ella Q. December 19, 2018
You've convinced me! I am ordering a tablespoon-sized scoop.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 19, 2018
Yippee!