Preheat oven to 425F. Melt the butter in the water with salt and sugar over low heat. Remove from heat and beat in flour with wooden spoon until completely mixed. Return to heat and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes. Mixture will form a mass, and a film will form on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and, one by one, add eggs, beating vigorously after each addition. Using pastry tube with 1/2 inch opening form puffs on a buttered baking sheet. Glaze each puff with the beaten egg and water, using a pastry brush. Smooth the top of each puff. Put in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and pierce each puff with a sharp knife (this allows the steam to escape so that the interior of the puff is not soggy). Return to the oven for 10 minutes more. Cool puffs on a rack.
Beat the egg yolks gradually adding sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Beat in the flour. Add the hot milk in dribbles, reserving 1/2 cup for thinning. Return to pot in which milk was scalded, and stir mixture over high heat until it comes to a boil. It will be lumpy first, then smooth out with vigorous stirring. Be careful not to scorch the bottom of the pot. The cream should be thick, but add milk if too thick to pipe. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Flavor with vanilla and salt. Cool completely. Inject cream into puffs with 1/4 inch tip.
Butter a 3 foot long piece of waxed paper. In a heavy 4-quart sauce pan, combine sugar, milk and margarine. Cook on high heat stirring constantly until soft ball stage is reached. Reduce heat to low, add vanilla. Continue to cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add pecans. Beat until mixture loses its gloss. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper. Let cool.
Bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Cover pan (allowing steam to dissolve any crystals that might form). Uncover pan and boil several more minutes, until syrup is amber. Reduce heat to keep syrup from hardening.
To assemble Croquembouche: Dip the filled cream puffs, one by one, into the caramel syrup and arrange on a base of pralines. Form a cone resembling a pyramid. Crumble some of the pralines and sprinkle into the pyramid as it is being assembled. The caramel holds the pyramid together.
Assemble the Croquembouche the day it is to be served, as it cannot be refrigerated. However, the puffs, pastry cream and pralines can be prepared in advance.
Cajun Country -- New Iberia, Louisiana