Christopher Testani
Active Time
1 HR
Total Time
7 HR 45 MIN
Yield
Serves :

The classic croquembouche—a decadent tower of cream-filled choux pastry puffsencased in ribbons of hard caramel—is showing up on menus once again. In this fresh, bright update from Victoria Dearmond, pastry chef at Georgia James in Houston, the puffs are filled with orange- and anise-infused cream. Rather than spun sugar, a white chocolate drizzle holds the tower together.  When piping, use a wet finger to gently shape the cream puffs to prevent peaks. Once baked and filled, build the tower in layers, setting the cream puffs on freshly poured chocolate to secure the shape. Gold luster dust provides shimmer and shine for a seriously dramatic dessert every holiday table needs.

How to Make It

Step 1    Start the orange-anise cream

Stir together heavy cream and star anise in a medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

Step 2    Meanwhile, make the pâte à choux

Stir together 1 1/2 cups water, butter, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until a film develops on bottom of pan and dough pulls away from sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer dough to bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-low speed until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until mixture comes back together as a smooth dough after each addition. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of dough, and chill at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Step 3    

Preheat oven to 375°F. Transfer one-third of the dough to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Keep remaining dough in refrigerator. Pipe about 26 (1 1/4-inch) mounds 1 inch apart on a large parchment paper–lined baking sheet. (To help make a perfect circle, pipe mounds without moving the tip. Pipe as smoothly and evenly as possible, pulling tip quickly to 1 side when finished with each mound to prevent a Hershey’s Kiss look.) Using a wet finger, gently smooth any “beaks” on tops of mounds. Using a spray bottle filled with water, mist mounds, and place in preheated oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 350°F, and bake until golden brown and puffed, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove puffs from oven, and let stand on baking sheet until completely cool, about 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 375°F, and repeat process 2 times with remaining dough. (Make sure you use cool baking sheets each time.) Using a 1/3-inch round piping tip, poke a 1/4-inch-deep hole into bottom of each puff.

Step 4    Finish the orange-anise cream

Pour chilled cream-anise mixture through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a bowl; discard solids. Transfer strained cream mixture to bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat strained cream mixture on medium-high speed, gradually adding powdered sugar, salt, and pepper. Beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Add orange zest and juice, and beat until stiff peaks form, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer orange-anise cream to a piping bag fitted with a 1/3-inch round tip.

Step 5    

Insert tip of piping bag into premade hole of each puff, and fill with orange-anise cream. Dip top of puff in white chocolate. Stack filled cream puffs on a platter in a conical tower. Sprinkle with luster dust, if desired, and decorate with whole star anise and candied orange peel.

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