Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Entertaining with Kathi newspaper column ~ December 6, 2007

“Wow! What is that?” My new catering assistant asked as she gawked at the dramatic dessert pyramid.

“This is a Chocolate Kahlua Croquembouche for tonight’s Christmas Party.” I responded with the pride of a pastry chef.

“It is beautiful! I’ve never seen anything like it! I sure would love to learn to make one!” She said as I showed her the sketch of the Holiday Pastry Stations that we would be creating for the festive corporate soiree we were catering for 300 guests.

The croquembouche was the centerpiece in a round trio table presentation, anchored by heavenly Chocolate Buche De Noel Yule Logs and elegant displays of bite-size Christmas-time confections. To complete the look, the tables were elaborately adorned with festive gold lame fabrics, bejeweled holiday trims and candlelight to create a vision of seasonal splendor.

My interpretation of a Holiday Croquembouche is made with one of my favorite holiday indulgences- Chocolate Pecan Kahlua Balls. The process is similar to making a traditional croquembouche, except I substituted the standard vanilla crème patisserie cream puffs and obliterated the need for the traditional sword that usually accompanies a Croquembouche.

Creative license in the kitchen is a good thing! By tweaking an age-old design with a flourish of culinary artistry, you can build a rich and spirited holiday confection that kindles the senses and ignites the oohs and ahs! You will find that this treat towers above and beyond the same ole, same ole Christmas party fare and will speak volumes about the caliber of party you throw! If you are anything like me, you want to serve food at your soirees that is beautiful, delicious and different from the food being served at every other party.

Chocolate Pecan Kahlua Balls

One half cup Kahlua
0ne fourth cup light corn syrup
one third cup candied cherries, chopped
one third cup golden raisins, chopped
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
one half cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 and one half cups vanilla wafer crumbs, chopped fine
1 cups pecans, finely chopped
For Rolling: powdered sugar, cocoa powder, coconut, chopped nuts

Combine kahlua with syrup and fruits. Blend sugar, cocoa, crumbs and pecans. Combine mixtures, Shape into small balls. Roll in desired coating. Freeze or store in an airtight container.
This recipe yields about 4 dozen balls or enough for a small croquembouche. Multiply the recipe accordingly as needed.

To Assemble A Holiday Croquembouche

Styrofoam Cylinder Cone
Pastry Brush
Bittersweet Chocolate, melted

Brush cone with melted chocolate in 2-inch wide strips down the length of the cone.
Wrap waxed paper around cone. Completely cover cone, letting the chocolate serve as your adhesive.
Place cone on a platter.
Holding toothpick at an angle, press two-thirds of the toothpick into the cone. Press Chocolate Pecan Kahlua Ball onto toothpick.
Repeat, working in a spiral-like design toward the top of the cone.
Dress your pyramid and dessert platter with strands of spun sugar and marzipan roses.

This article originally appeared in the Entertaining with Kathi newspaper column that runs every other week in the Northeast Chronicle, a publication of the Tallahassee Democrat.

Kathi Dameron is a caterer, special event designer, food writer and teacher of cooking classes. She owns Canopy Rose Culinary Arts Studio and Catering Company in Havana, Florida. She can be reached at 850-539-7750 or at

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