This extraordinary Croquembouche is the perfect dish for someone who enjoys a challenge in the kitchen
Preheat oven to 190°C fan forced. Lightly grease 9 oven trays.
For the choux pastry: Place butter, sugar, milk, salt and water in a large wide-based saucepan (large dutch oven) and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and using a wooden spoon, quickly beat in the flour. Return to heat and continue beating until mixture comes together and leaves the side of the pan. Keep beating for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Transfer to a large bowl of a stand mixer. Using stand mixer, beat mixture to release any more heat. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, until all the eggs have been added and mixture is thick and glossy. Beat for a few more minutes, or until thickened.
Spoon half the choux pastry batter into a large piping bag fitted with a 1.25-1.5cm round nozzle. Cover the remaining pastry with cling film. Pipe mixture onto trays in mounds 3cm wide and 2cm high, leaving 5cm between each for spreading. Repeat with remaining choux pastry.
For the egg wash: Lightly whisk eggs and milk together and brush onto piped choux pastry. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. They should feel firm and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer puffs to wire racks to cool.
For crème patissiere, stir the milk, vanilla bean seeds and beans in a large wide-based saucepan (dutch oven) over medium heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla beans.
Meanwhile whisk yolks, sugar and corn flour in a bowl until thick and pale. Using electric beaters fitted with whisk attachment, gradually whisk half the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return the egg mixture to remaining mixture in saucepan. Whisk over a medium heat until custard boils and thickens. Spread over a 4cm deep oven tray to cool rapidly. Cover the surface of the custard with a sheet of baking paper to prevent a skin forming.
When mixture has cooled to 55°C, transfer it to a large bowl and stir through butter until completely combined. Cover with baking paper. Refrigerate to cool completely.
Spoon cooled crème patissiere into a piping bag with a 5-8mm nozzle. Poke a small hole in the base of each puff and fill with crème patissiere.
Place sugar and water in a large wide based saucepan or deep frying pan, place over medium heat and cook without boiling until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil without stirring. Add glucose, cook until mixture is caramel in colour. Remove from heat and dip base of pan in a large bowl of cold water to cool slightly.
Dip the top of each filled puff in a little caramel and place on a tray, caramel-side up, to set. Reserve one undipped puff for the tip.
To assemble, oil the inside of a croquembouche cone. Place one uncoated puff into the point of the cone. Working one at a time, dip the sides of the puffs into the caramel and place into the cone. Continue dipping and adding balls until the inside of the cone is covered. Leave to set.
Place a small amount of caramel on the puffs around the base of the cone. Invert the cone onto a cake base and lift off gently.
To spin the sugar, lay baking paper on the work bench. Place two rolling pins about 40cm apart on the baking paper.
Return the caramel to a low heat. Take a whisk with ends snipped off, dip into the melted caramel and flick back and forth over the rolling pins to create a long bundle of spun sugar that looks like cotton wool. Start wrapping the bundle around the tower. Repeat making bundles until you have enough to cover the tower of profiteroles.