Back when I was catering in the early nineties, my business partner Nic would always talk about making a croquembouche one day. “It’s gonna be three feet high,” he’d say. “Yeah Nic, it’s going to be three feet high and sparkle like gold,” I’d respond knowing there was no way we’d ever be able to afford to make one with the money we had. But I didn’t want to to crush the dream that kept him going.
After a while it was all he talked about, croquembouche this, croquembouche that and it all got too much and I just had to tell him straight that there was never going to be a croquembouche. I’d never seen him so angry as he pushed past me and ran out the door, grabbing the keys to the limited editon Group A Walkinshaw Camira I’d been working on to try and raise some more money. He was half was down the street before I could get my shoes on. Back then, during the recession and before flexible home equity financing, there was only one way you could get your hands on money quickly – speedway racing.
I must have used all 10 speeds on my bike getting to the track, only to hear the sound of metal. Pushing my way through the pits, I got to Nic just as they were pulling him out of the crushed body of the Camira. “I guess I screwed up pretty badly this time,” Nic whispered, trying not to put pressure on his broken ribs. “No Nick, you did great. Now try to relax.” “It’s gonna be three feet high…” and with a smile Nick said his last words. And in the middle of the track I cried hot tears that day, fifteen years ago – so this one’s for you Nic, we finally made it.
– choux pastry is, funnily enough, like a roux but with egg yolks incorporated.
– crème pâtissière uses milk rather than cream. For this one I flavoured it with passionfruit pulp passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and dark chocolate.
– if the chocolate isn’t melted properly it will block the pastry bag and cream will come out the other end, onto the bench and cookbook and then floor.
– melted sugar is facking hot so wear shoes
– for fine golden threads, put a little of the hot caramel on a puff and pull the spoon back and stretch the thread.
– you don’t need a cone, although it helps
– I’d like to try a savoury one with pate.