Well, it’s that time of the month again…and by that I mean the Bakers Challenge!
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. This is a very traditional French wedding cake and is really just lots of cream puffs “glued” together with a hard caramel sauce. You might think to yourself, “when am I going to need a traditional French wedding cake?”, but think again. Break is down and you have delicious cream puffs to serve as a dessert. If you can master the pate a choux (which is so incredibly easy), you will always be able to whip something up in a flash. You can fill them with ice cream, pastry cream, pudding, or whipped cream. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. I loved the idea of making this colossal tower of cream puffs, but since this week it’s just me and my 4 yr old at home I opted to make a teeny tiny one. The balance of my cream puffs are in the freezer awaiting company. I also made a version last week with chocolate pate a choux with a nutella cream center and chocolate sauce. Way too good!!!
Since we had to make a pastry cream for the filling, I chose to make a pistachio pastry cream then added some whipped cream mixed with pistachio brittle to lighten it up a little (funny how more cream can “lighten” something…) While I loved making this dessert in the future I will skip the caramel sauce my – dentist will thank me.
Well, it’s that time of the month again… by that I mean the Baker’s Challenge.
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of
For the Vanilla (or Pistachio) Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1/2 C Pistachio paste (optional)
Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla (and pistachio paste, if using).
Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Place in the fridge to cool and until ready to use. You can make this up to 3 days in advance.
1/2 C Sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 C shelled pistachios
1 C heavy cream, whipped
Line a sheet pan with either a piece of foil, lightly oiled, or a silpat.
Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let it boil until it turns a nice golden color (about 5 minute). Quickly stir in the pistachios and spread onto prepared pan. Let cool completely then break into pieces. Process in food processor until finely ground. Combine with 1 cup whipped cream and the reserved pistachio pastry cream.
Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (this will happen very quickly).
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Now, I happen to use my KitchenAide standing mixer for this, but it’s just as easy to do this by hand (I’m just lazy)
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.
Can be stored in an airtight container overnight.
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.
Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)
Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.
Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.
When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!
Additional Information: Here are some videos you may want to take a look at before you get started on your piece montée.
1) Martha Stewart Assembles a Croquembouche:
2) Assembling croquembouche using the interior of a cylinder:
3) Asembling Free-standing Croquembouche with Chocolate Glaze:
4) Assembling a Croquembouche with Toothpicks and Cone:
See this google images search of Croquembouche for inspiration:
Here’s a link to a dairy-free pate a choux and crème patisserie recipe: