For the uninitiated, a tower of toffee-dipped, vanilla crème-filled profiteroles is not only a feat verging on the impossible, but also a thing to be held in utter terror. Not so at the Savour Chocolate and Patisserie Cooking School's Croquembouche Class. Perfectly puffed profiteroles, the creamiest custard and shiny golden toffee are all child's play for Savour's head chef Kirsten Tiballs, and there's no way you'll escape croquemboucheless on her watch.
Savour Chocolate and Patisserie Cooking School in Brunswick offers a range of specialty cooking classes all varying in content and difficulty. Among the most popular are the macaron classes, where the award-winning Savour chefs let participants in on their secret dual piping technique to create striped and shiny macaron perfection.
But it doesn't just stop at biscuits. Depending on your inclination you can master the perfect cheesecake, create hand-made easter eggs, try your hand at French entremets or even build a Christmsa gingerbread house. Classes are as delicious as they are rigorous. According to Savour, completion of the Level Four Chocolate and Pralines class equips participants with enough skill and knowledge to open their own chocolate establishment.
Whatever your flavour, you're in good hands with Savour's Kirsten Tiballs and Paul Kennedy. Savour founder Kirsten Tiballs is one of Australia's most famous pastry chefs. Recognised internationally as an award-winning pastry maestro, Kirsten is also a pastry Olympic gold-medallist. Better yet, Kirsten is unerringly patient and particularly sympathetic of searing toffee burns.
Paul Kennedy's chocolatiering excellence has culminated in a number of awards, including first place at the World Chocolate Masters in 2007. Both his professionalism and humour make him a favourite among Savour's regulars – and unsurprisingly, there are lots of these. (One member of the most recent Crocquembouche Class confided that she had taken twelve days of annual leave to take advantage of her Savour Membership. Clearly, this is a seriously addictive place.)
Crowding around the central bench top in Savour's state of the art kitchen to watch Kirsten demonstrate correct piping technique, I'm struck by her deftness. Somehow we've managed to make enough choux pastry to pipe out about 90 profiteroles each, separated almost two kilos of eggs for our collective vanilla crème 'slurry', and begun heating sugar and glucose to frightening temperatures.
Despite a hearty gourmet salad for stamina under my belt, I'm verging on exhausted. Kirsten, on the other hand, is in her element.
The most common mistake people make is not filling the profiteroles with enough custard," she says, filling several to perfection in a few swift movements. (After several custard explosions at our work bench I wonder if we followed her advice a little too enthusiastically.)
Once our profiteroles are coated in gleaming hot toffee it's time for the most terrifying part of all: construction. Kirsten has told us that creating a perfect conical tower all comes down to choosing the right sized profiteroles for the base circle. Frantic profiterole exchanges ensue.
Then, using golden toffee as our glue, the profiterole towers slowly begin to rise. The fast finishers are called upon to make sugar flowers. (I'm only up to my third layer at this point so I have no idea how mere mortals can create such gorgeous edible garnishes. Luckily I'm still welcome to stud my sticky tower with them.)
Ever the professional, Kirsten has saved the best til last. She dips a fistful of forks into a saucepan of hot sugar, and then starts flinging them around madly. The result is a thousand tiny translucent caramelised threads, known as spun sugar. We all have a go, with her encouraging us to fling harder, higher. Then we twirl the sugar ribbons around the finished tower. Voila.
Towers wrapped safely in cellophane, dishes all somehow magically washed, it's time to go home and boast. Croquembouches are best devoured within six hours - and deconstruction is the most delicious part of all.