Milk tart croquembouche

Croquembouche is a glamorous French dessert, literally meaning ‘crunch in the mouth’, and very often served as a wedding cake, says South African Michelin-starred chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who’s based in Nice. This creation is featured his beautiful new book, ‘JAN – A Breath of French air’.

Serves: 8-10

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes


3 large eggs, separated
10ml ground cinnamon
1.125 L full-cream milk
80g cake flour, sifted
65g cornflour
A pinch of salt
110g sugar
15 ml vanilla extract
2 large egg yoks
250g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
100g unsalted butter
375 ml water
1ml fine salt
5ml sugar
100g unsalted butter
225g sifted all-purpose flour
7 large eggs
160ml water
400g granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 220 °C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

To make the puffs, place the butter, water, salt and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and add the flour.

Return the saucepan to the heat and, using a wooden spoon, beat vigorously for 2–3 minutes. Cool slightly, then add 6 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle.

Make a glaze by beating the remaining egg with 5 ml water, and set aside.

Pipe out mounds that are 2.5 cm high and 2 cm in diameter on the prepared baking tray. Brush with egg glaze and smooth the tops. Bake for 20–25 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on wire racks.

To make the filling, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Mix 125 ml of the milk, the cake flour, cornflour, salt and sugar together until smooth. Bring the remaining milk to just below boiling point, then remove from the heat and stir in the cornflour mixture. Return to the heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth and thickens. Add the butter, a little at a time, mixing until the well combined, then add the vanilla. Beat all the egg yolks lightly and mix into the custard. Gently fold in the whisked egg whites. Mix the ground cinnamon into the milk tart filling.

Once the puffs are cooled, cut a small opening in the bottom of each puff and fill with warm milk tart filling.

To make the caramel, combine the water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Cover the saucepan and boil until the steam dissolves any crystals. Uncover and boil for 5 minutes more, or until the syrup is amber in colour. Remove from the heat.

Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel, and then arrange the puffs in a pyramid. Drizzle the leftover caramel over the top.

AN – A Breath of French Air by Jan Hendrik van der WesthuizenThis recipe is extracted from JAN – A Breath of French Air by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (Struik Lifestyle)


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