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Scottish chef puts skills to good use by creating showstopping croquembouche during furlough

Chef Evelina Stripeikytė put her own twist on the French pastry dessert, offering up a giant one which features 80 choux buns.

A talented chef is using her time on furlough to put her skills to good use, creating mammoth croquembouche for customers to enjoy over the festive period.

Evelina Stripeikytė, 26, who has worked as a chef for nearly seven years in some of Scotland’s top eateries and is based in Auchterarder, wanted to bring some joy to people, signing off the end of the year with the creation of her croquembouche masterpieces.

A French dessert consisting of choux buns piled onto a cone tower and bound with threads of caramel, Evelina says it is not the easiest of things to assemble and can take days to make, with some elements taking at least two days to put together.

Evelina Stripeikyte’s croquembouche

She said: “Croquembouche is a French pastry dessert which consists of choux pastry puffs which are filled and then made into a cone shape. It is then bound with hot caramel. All of the croquembouche’s I am making are a little different. They are unique and made by hand, not in a factory. I am so passionate about cooking and I have loved putting my own twist on them.”

Challenging to make

Like the age old saying, “good things come to those who wait”, making a croquembouche is all about being patient and ensuring your timing is right, as well as not filling the choux buns too full or overheating the caramel.

She added: “It isn’t easy to make and it takes a few days. It takes two days to make the filling alone which goes in the pastry. The fillings which vary from creme pâtissière au Grand Marnier to salted caramel mousseline and coffee and chocolate mousse, have to sit overnight and are then mixed with cream. The choux buns are made freshly on the day.

“You have to make each element, cook it, allow it to cool down, fill the choux pastry with the filling, assemble and then put the caramel on. Caramel isn’t the easiest thing to work with either, especially when it is hot. I wear gloves to protect myself from getting any burns.”

Elegantly put together

But how does a tower of pastry stay standing so elegantly? Evelina notes the use of a paper cone hidden in the middle to give it some much-needed support.

Evelina adds gingerbread goodies to her festive croquembouche.

She says she then works around the cone, carefully and strategically placing larger and smaller choux buns in a particular order to ensure the tower stays standing and is supported correctly.

“The very middle is a cone of paper which helps it keep its shape. I then work my way around the cone placing all the different choux buns on it,” says Evelina

“I have been doing ones with 80 choux buns on it. They are the biggest ones I do so far. I make them different sizes to accommodate people’s needs, so I’d do a smaller one for a family of four, for example. One with 80 would feed around eight to 10 people, depending on how many you want to have per person and if you want to have some leftovers, too.

“Each one can be decorated to fit the occasion, so if it was for Christmas I’d put little gingerbread men and gingerbread Christmas trees on them.”

A gingerbread Christmas tree topping the croquembouche.

Inspiration

Keen to spread some festive cheer, Evelina already has bookings into 2021 for her New Year and celebratory versions, all of which have been inspired by a childhood memory.

She added: “I think I was really inspired to do something like this, mainly because I wanted to do something to keep myself busy and practicing my trade.

“But when I was little my mum used to hang candy on the Christmas tree. I used to unwrap the candy, eat them and then put the paper back into shape and hang them back up.

Evelina Stripeikyte at The Craftsman Company in Aberdeen.

“Working with caramel really brings back those memories and I’ve always had a sweet tooth so the festive period always reminds me of those times. Now I can put my passion into cooking, and to be able to share this with others and make other people happy at this time is really special to me.

“I’m on furlough just now and I wanted to keep myself stimulated and motivated. I have gained so many skills at work which has allowed me to create something truly spectacular.”

Delivery

Based in Auchterarder, Evelina will be offering local delivery to neighbouring town, and also offers a collection option, too.

She continued: “I’m working on creating them in Auchterarder at the moment and delivering locally, and I was delivering to Edinburgh and Glasgow. People who live locally just need to ensure they are abiding my Scottish Government restrictions, so I’ll mainly be focusing on offering the service to locals.

Evelina will relocate to Aberdeen at the beginning of 2021 to meet demand.

“I had planned to be based in Aberdeen in the New Year in The Craftsman Company, where I used to work as the head chef, making them from there, however with the new Tier 4 restrictions coming into play I won’t be doing that.

“Customers just need to make sure they are abiding by government guidelines but I’m happy for them to contact me to ensure we can arrange delivery or collection.”


For more festive inspiration…

Bored of the usual Christmas veggies? Here’s some fresh ideas to try instead

Michael Leathley’s Christmas Cracker: Learn how to cook a delicious lobster dish for your festive feast

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