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Hi! Thank you for stopping by to watch me, Leah, cook kosher. I've been the owner operator of my boutique catering firm in Seattle, Leah's Catering, for the past 14 years.

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Oh Croquembouche, Oh Croquembouche
Posted: December 21, 2010 By: Leah Jaffee

The songs of the cultural majority this time of year, subliminal "buy now" Muzak, generally permeate my air space as white noise. Once in a while, Bing Cosby jolts me to recollections of December 2008, what a nightmare! The city of Seattle, under a siege of white, slips and slides into the nearest Starbuck's. No school, no work, no record breaking sales...a total economic disaster. This year, 2010, the Pineapple Express dumps buckets of rain, spirits seem dampened. I don't feel bombarded by ho-ho-ho, I sense more ho-hum. Maybe it is because I stand outside the hoopla. Maybe it is because someone was discovered living in a storage unit in the basement of the building. Things aren't that great for many people.

I've heard references to Chanakah bushes but I've yet to see one. As a convert, jonesing for what glistens in my neighbor's window doesn't register. Mostly I just think to each his own; been there, done that. Admittedly, the dreidel thing doesn't resonate, either. One might convert one's religious perspective and ideals with soul transforming rigor. One does not, however, find scoring big on trail mix equal to Santa's haul!


I did come across this photo today in my 'life at a glance tote'. The croquembouche! I started humming, "Oh Croquembouche, Oh Croquembouche..." and decide to make up some lyrics to describe what a croquembouche is. It goes something like:

Oh croquembouche, oh croquembouche, how lovely are your cream puffs. The airy lightness, filled with pastry cream, the burning caramel, made me scream...oh, croquembouche, oh croquembouche, I must be nuts or something!

About 10 years ago, while still working out of my basement, I get a call from the Fairmont Olympic. They want a croquembouche to feed 250 people...can I do it? People have been to the moon and back, could I do it? Sure! Hanging up the phone, I turn to Benoit and ask, "What is a croquembouche?" The day arrives and my sister, Benoit and I are ready to make 250 cream puffs and quite a few gallons of pareve pastry cream. I know a lot more about how to make a croquembouche today, mostly never to make another.

The glue that holds the cream puffs in place is hot caramel. The portion sizes I use are rather large, so the croquembouche gets huge. Running behind schedule, we burn our fingers as we rush to assemble the growing tower. The music in the grand ballroom has already begun and we are still in the basement 5 miles from the hotel. We abbreviate our planned decorations and stick gold bows randomly here and there. Carefully, we steady the base and walk the croquembouche to the waiting van. Seriously, we clear the height of the door opening by 1/4".

Benoit and I speed the creation downtown to the hotel. We both look like we've stressed an entire 10 hours straight because we have. Pulling into the underground loading dock, we scramble to find a cart to bring the croquembouche to the ballroom, the equivalent of about 3 city blocks. When we approach the ballroom, the banquet chef asks, "What is that? We thought you were bringing something about 20" tall for the dessert buffet." Quickly, the staff skirts a rolling cart so the croquembouche can be brought into the ballroom. The guests are already eating dinner. None of the hotel staff want the responsibility of moving  the cart into the ballroom. Benoit, because I'm the boss and refuse to do it, rolls the croquembouche into the ballroom. The room gives IT a standing ovation as the band plays. Oh croquembouche!


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