I’ve always loved the idea of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, mostly because they encourage groups of people to get together and have fun with their food. Subsequently, when I found myself reading a visual novel that referenced a cream puff tower with magical ingredients, I couldn’t help but think of Bertie Bott’s and Harry Potter.
I’d been planning to make a special dessert for Harry’s birthday for a while. Coincidentally, my own birthday occurs 3 days before Harry’s and I’d be having a get-together just before. The Harry Potter fandom has got a lot going on right now: an upcoming movie, a released play/book, new information about Ilvermorny and a major Pottermore update. There couldn’t possibly be a better time to make a magical cream puff tower for Harry’s (and my) birthday!
Here’s the basic idea of this tower: 2/3 of the puffs are delicious vanilla puffs. Yummy, but nothing unusual. However, mixed between these normal puffs is the occasional “magic” puff. You can’t tell what’s what from the outside, so it’s basically creampuff roulette.
I made 3 “magical” puffs, all based on a candy from the Harry Potter universe:
Exploding Fairy Dust – Filled to the brim with pop rocks
Powdered Porcupine – Super Sour Lemon
Shock-O-Choc – Spicy Chili Chocolate
This tower went over incredibly well at my birthday party. I didn’t actually tell anyone what the puff flavors were, just that they’d know they’d gotten a special puff when they tasted it. Everytime someone pulled off a puff and took the first bite, everyone was dead silent waiting for a reaction. When someone got a special puff, they’d announce what type they’d discovered and typically would end passing it around to share.
Especially funny was when one friend bit into the first pop rock puff of the night and completely froze. It took him a while to figure out what he was eating, and his confused and slightly scared reaction made the work I put into this thing totally worth it. By the end of the night, we were stuffed and had laughed ourselves slack. This was infinitely more fun than a standard birthday cake.
I am sorry to say the difficulty level IS higher on this one, and I wouldn’t recommend it for novice bakers who aren’t already comfortable with making cream puffs. If you’ve got some practice in the kitchen, though, I highly recommend you try your hand at making this awesome tower!
HARRY’S MAGICAL CREAM PUFF TOWER
Yields: Tower with approximately 50 cream puffs.
TIMING NOTES: This is not a one-afternoon project. To minimize your stress, I suggest you start on some parts of this puff tower a couple of days ahead of time. I’ll post a suggested timeling under the assembly section.
Pâte à Choux
300ml (1 1/4 cup) water
300ml (1 1/4 cup) milk
225g (2 sticks) butter
450g (4 cups) bread flour
35g (generous 2 tbsp) sugar
2 pinches of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 205°C/400°F and line a sheet pan with parchment. I prefer to layer my parchment over a silicone mat or to double up on cookie sheets. This prevents the undersides from overbrowning.
2. In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt and butter. Bring to a rolling boil, then dump in the flour all at once and mix vigorously. The mix will form into a ball. Continue mixing it; you want to dry the batter out some. The dough should begin to leave a film on the bottom of the pot. When this happens, dump the hot dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat it on low speed until cool.
2. Begin adding your eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg fully before adding the next. Here’s where it gets a little tricky… Your goal is NOT to use all of the egg, but to achieve the proper consistency. Depending on how dry your dough is, you may use more or less than the recipe calls for (as an example, I made these on a very humid day and only needed 8 eggs). The dough is at the proper consistency when it’s stretchy enough for you to take a pinch of it between your hand and stretch it to over 1″ long. Alternately, lift the paddle of your mixer and check that the dough makes a smooth V shape as it drops.
3. Pipe the cream puffs into rounds a bit smaller than a golf ball, 2″ apart. They will expand quite a lot when baked. If you have any tips, dip your fingertip in water and pat them down to smooth the tops. You should have well over 50 cream puffs.
4. Bake the cream puffs for 15 minutes or until fully puffed and partially browned. Now place another sheet pan on a rack above the puffs (or if your heat source is on the bottom, on the rack below). Turn the heat down to 160°C/325°F and continue to bake the puffs for 15-25 more minutes, or until browned all over and dried out. A common mistake is taking cream puffs out of the oven after they are only lightly browned; this will make them soggy. We want crisp pastries! Allow the cream puffs to cool completely, then store in an airtight container until ready to fill.
Sour Lemon Cream
75ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice, fresh
Zest of 1 lemon
1-3 tbsp sugar
2 egg yolks
1.5 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp gelatin powder
1/4 tsp citric acid (optional)
1 tbsp butter
60ml (1/4 cup) cream, whipped to soft peaks
1. First, decide how sour you want your cream: if you want it sour like a sour candy, use the smallest amount of sugar and add the citric acid. For a normal lemon cream, use the highest amount of sugar and omit the acid. In a microwave safe bowl, beat together all your ingredients except for the butter, whipped cream and gelatin. Microwave the bowl 1 minute at a time, beating between each microwaving, until the curd has thickened and cooked through.
2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tbsp of water and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. In the meantime, beat the butter into your hot lemon curd until incorporated. Now stir in the gelatin as well, until well dissolved and incorporated. Run the curd through a sieve into a shallow bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, touching the wrap to the top of the curd. Allow the curd to cool to room temperature, then fold in the whipped cream. Transfer the lemon cream to a piping bag and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Chocolate Cream (Spicy and Regular)
100g dark chocolate
60g heavy cream
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp chili powder
120ml (1/2 cup) cream, whipped to soft peaks
1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate and heavy cream. Microwave in 30 second incriments, stirring between each microwaving, until the cream and chocolate form a smooth ganache.
2. Split the ganache into two bowls and allow both to cool to room temperature. Add the spices to one of the bowls of ganache, beginning at the smallest measurement and adding more to your taste. If you want someone to note that it’s spicy but gladly keep eating it, err on the low side. If you want someone to go, “SWEET LORD THAT’S SPICY” (which is funnier, but may result in the cream puff going uneaten), add more spice.
3. Split the whipped cream between the two bowls of ganache and fold it in. Now fill both creams into piping bags, being sure to label which one is spicy. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
375ml (1 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) milk
25g (3 tbsp) cornstarch
2 egg yolks
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 tbsp butter
120ml (1/2 cup) cream, whipped to soft peaks
1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the butter and whipped cream and beat well. Cook on medium heat until thickened, then allow it to bubble for an additional minute, still stirring it, to get rid of any starchy flavor. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until combined. Run the cream through a sieve to remove any chunks and the vanilla bean pod. Cover with saran wrap, touching the top of the wrap to the cream, and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or until cold. Now stir the cream to soften it a bit and fold in the cream. Fill into a piping bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
30g (1 oz) marzipan
1800g (4 lbs) white chocolate
Vegetable oil, about 80ml (1/3 cup)
Heavy Cream, about 250ml (1 cup)
Red gel food coloring
Pop rocks, about 6 packages (I have found dollar stores carry these most reliably)
Pearl and gold luster dusts
Parchment paper and wax paper
Paper cone, 8-9″ tall and covered with wax paper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr7Vqvbo3N0
Cake pop or bonbon mold
Ribbon and Pins
1. First, melt all your white chocolate. Dip the base of your paper cone into the chocolate and adhere it to your cake stand.
2. Split the remaining chocolate between two bowls, with one bowl containing 2/3 of the chocolate and the other 1/3. Mix about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil into the bowl with 2/3 of the chocolate, then fill some of this chocolate into a piping bag. Use this bag to pipe swirling shapes of varying sizes onto a sheet of parchment as shown below. 1 cookie sheet full of swirls should be enough. Cool these in the fridge. Now fill a bonbon or cake pop mold with this chocolate. Turn it upside down over your bowl and tap it to remove the excess chocolate, then clean off the edges with a knife or spatula. Allow to cool in the fridge. Once set, pull out the bonbon molds and fill them to just below the top with pop rocks. Spread some chocolate over the tops of the bonbon molds to seal the pop rocks in, then level it off with a spatula. Allow to chill in the fridge again, then unmold the pop rock bon bons and set aside.
3. To the chocolate that you’ve added oil to, add another 2 tbsp of oil. This will make it smooth and easier to dip your cream puffs with. Take your heavy cream and add red gel coloring to it until it’s a very dark, deep red. Warm the cream slightly in the microwave. Pour about half the cream over the melted chocolate that does NOT have oil mixed in, and mix until the chocolate is well colored. If this doesn’t make the chocolate dark enough, add more of the cream bit by bit until your color is achieved. Don’t mix the coloring directly into the chocolate; always dilute it in cream first. You now have your dipping chocolates for the cream puffs.
4. Grab your cream puffs and arrange them roughly by size. Set aside 3 small, nicely rounded ones to use for the snitches. Set aside the 6 larger/tall ones for the pop rock flavor. Take the remaining puffs and poke a hole into the bottom of each one using a skewer or chopstick. Now take out your bags of filling and pipe filling into the puffs as follows: 6 sour lemon puffs, 6 spicy chocolate puffs, 3 non-spicy ganache puffs (use the ones you set aside for snitches for these). Pipe the remainder full of vanilla cream, with the exception of the puffs set aside to be filled with pop rocks.
5. Fill the pop rock puffs as follows: carefully cut each puff in half horizontally. Pipe a small amount of ganache into each side, then sandwich the bonbon into the puff and press it lightly to seal it in. Use a bit of melted chocolate to seal the halves of the cream puff back together, then set them on the sheet along with your other puffs.
6. Decorate the snitches: press bits of marzipan into the ridges of your puffs to make them more perfectly round. Chill them for 5 minutes, then dip them all the way into your white chocolate. Tap them on the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate, then carefully set them onto a sheet of parchment to dry. In the meantime, use a piece of paper to cut out a mold for your wings. You can freestyle this mold based on your puff size, as the puffs all vary and you will be able to tell what looks best. Now use this template to cut out 6 wing shapes from your sheet gelatin. Brush the wings lightly with pearl luster dust and set them aside. Once the snitches have set, dry brush them generously with gold luster dust. If the dust isn’t adhering, brush a very very light layer of oil onto the puffs and then cover them in the gold dust. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut two slits into one side of each snitch for the wings. Insert the gelatin wings and set the snitches aside.
7. Dip your remaining puffs. These should only be dipped halfway. Dip half in the red ganache and half in the white chocolate. I suggest you reserve about 5 puffs and keep those un-dipped in case you find you need more of one color later on.
8. Fill the remaining white chocolate into a piping bag. You can now begin assembling the puff tower. To attach a puff, pipe a generous amount of white chocolate onto the bottom and press it onto your cone, holding it for a moment to allow it to adhere. Continue doing this in rows, alternating rows of white and red puffs. If your chocolate is taking a moment to set, tie a ribbon around a white row and secure it with a pin. Leave the ribbon on until the chocolate has set, to avoid your puffs shifting as you assemble. If you need to occasionally chill the tower in the fridge to speed setting, that is completely okay! Just be sure not to add another row until the one beneath it has set.
9. Repeat this process until you have covered all but the very top of your cone in puffs. The final, top puff should be a golden snitch. Adhere it with a dab of white chocolate as you did the others. Allow the whole tower to set for 20 minutes.
8. Choose the spots you’d like your other 2 snitches to go. This is a good opportunity to cover up any bare spots. Once you’ve picked a spot, insert a toothpick halfway into the cone/puff you’d like to adhere the snitch to. Now put a tiny dab of white chocolate onto the bottom of your snitch and slide it onto the toothpick, making sure it’s secure.
9. Here comes the really fun part! It’s time to adhere your swirls. This is a great chance to cover up any smudges, bare spots, or other minor mistakes. We’re only human, so a red fingerprint here and there is hard to avoid. Simple place your swirls all over the croquembouche in a somewhat random patter, securing them with a dab of melted chocolate when necessary.
10. This final step is purely optional. I mixed some pearl and gold coloring and gently airbrushed it over the top. It’s also completely fine to gently dust it overhead with a sieve or tea ball. This gives a bit of dimension to the tower, but is absolutely not essential to the piece looking good.
11. Pat yourself on the back big time, because you’re done!
DAY 1: Make chocolate swirls and chocolate bon bon shells. Make sure you’ve got everything set up and ingredients ready for following days.
DAY 2: Make all fillings and cream puffs. Make paper cone.
DAY 3: Assemble.
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