- For the filling, heat milk with vanilla bean in medium saucepan, until small bubbles appear around edge. Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a bowl; set aside. Remove vanilla bean from hot milk. Scrape seeds from bean and add to milk mixture. Gradually whisk half the hot milk into sugar-cornstarch mixture; then add mixture to saucepan. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in yolks. Stirring with whisk, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. (Once thickened the mixture might appear curdled, but it's okay.) Whisk custard vigorously 4 seconds, until smooth. Return custard to a boil; boil 1 minute more. Stir in peel and juice. Transfer to medium bowl; cover and refrigerate until cool, 2 hours. Beat cream in mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gently whisk half the whipped cream into custard; fold in remaining cream with rubber spatula.
- For the cream puffs, heat oven to 400 degree F. Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets. Bring water, butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt to boil in medium saucepan; boil until butter melts. Reduce heat to medium, add flour all at once; stir until dough pulls away from side of pan. Continue stirring 1 to 2 minutes to dry. Transfer dough to a mixer bowl. Beat in eggs at medium speed, one at a time, until blended after each addition and mixture is stiff. Spoon warm dough into large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe into eighty 1-inch balls, 1 inch apart, on prepared sheets. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, switching pans after 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pans from oven. Turn oven off. With a small, sharp knife, cut a small slit in the center of the flat bottom of each puff. Return puffs, bottom down, to cookie sheets and let stand in oven with door ajar, 1 hour. Transfer puffs to wire racks and cool completely.
- To prepare half the caramel, heat small skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup to the skillet; cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar melts and turns golden, 7 minutes. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, swirling pan until sugar melts after each addition and caramel is light amber.
- Remove pan from heat. Carefully dip top of each puff into caramel and immediately return each puff caramel-side up to cookie sheet. (If caramel hardens, reheat over low heat until melted.)
- Spoon half the filling into large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch tip. Insert the tip into the slit of a puff; fill and return to cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining puffs and filling.
To form cone:
- Cover an 8-inch round cardboard circle with foil; set aside.
Make remaining caramel:
- Clean and dry the skillet. Heat over medium heat 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar melts and turns golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Dip bottom of each puff and arrange a circle of puffs along the edge of the foil-lined circle (about 14 puffs). Combine gluing and stacking seven more layers of puffs with caramel to form a cone, (If caramel hardens, reheat over low heat until melted.) Let stand until caramel completely hardens. To serve, transfer croque-en-bouche to serving plate. Then cut horizontally in rows through caramel with serrated knife to separate puffs, and transfer to serving plates. Makes 12 servings.
From the Test Kitchen
Prepare filling as directed above. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Prepare cream puffs as directed above. Wrap loosely in foil and store at room temperature overnight. Assemble and stack cream puffs as directed above. Cover and chill for up to 6 hours before serving.
Nutrition Facts (Croquembouche)
- Per serving:
- 445 kcal cal.,
- 20 g fat
- (11 g sat. fat,
- 222 mg chol.,
- 153 mg sodium,
- 61 g carb.,
- 7 g pro.
- Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet