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Our take on the classic French dessert, croquembouche, calls for roasted Brussels sprouts instead of cream-filled pastry puffs and makes for a show-stopping centerpiece for your party’s appetizer table. The spun sugar and flaky salt are not only fun, but both provide a crunchy contrast to the Brussels sprouts, as well as a sweet and salty flavor profile. For easy building, use larger Brussels sprouts around the base and smaller ones toward the top. Look for Brussels with tightly wrapped leaves or peel off a few of the outer ones, if needed. When making the caramel, don’t stir while it’s melting because that can cause it to crystalize. Also, if it’s humid out or raining, the spun sugar may melt quicker due to moisture in the air—so make the spun sugar just before guests arrive.
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine Brussels sprouts, oil, kosher salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet; toss to coat. Bake until tender and browned in spots, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through cook time. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Skewer each Brussels sprout, inserting a toothpick piece into the stem end, leaving about 3/4-inch of the toothpick sticking out. Arrange Brussels sprouts on the Styrofoam cone by pressing the toothpick end into the cone. Set cone on a parchment lined cake stand and cover table underneath with a large sheet of parchment paper.
Bring sugar, water and corn syrup to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high. Cook, swirling pan occasionally (do not stir) until caramel turns a light amber color and registers 375°F on an instant read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and swirl pan constantly on a heat proof surface until caramel thickens slightly, darkens and cools to about 280°F, about 4 minutes. Dip the tines of 2 forks in the caramel and lift: A thin thread of caramel will form. (If caramel drips instead of pulling into a thread, continue cooling.) Working quickly, swirl forks in circles around croquembouche, allowing threads of caramel to stick to Brussels sprouts, re-dipping forks in caramel as needed. Repeat process until croquembouche is covered in spun sugar (you will have leftover caramel). Caramel stays at the optimum consistency for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle croquembouche with flaky salt and carefully slide parchment paper out from underneath. Croquembouche will keep at room temperature for up to 3 hours.