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.
What is a Croquembouche without a little ice cream on the side?
So, this month I was EXCITED! I’ve wanted to make a Croquembouche for a very long time, and this challenge gave me both a reason to make it, and an amazing recipe to follow. I tested out the recipe numerous times, partly to make sure it would be perfect when I came to assemble my Croquembouche, mostly because I really wanted to eat Profiteroles!
The creme patissiere is AMAZING. I ate it could eat it by the bowlful and I never had a problem with this part of the recipe. After I figured out that I could make meringues from the two egg whites left over I had ever more reason to love this recipe. Who can say no to custard and meringues? Not necessarily together…
Of course I used the spoon to put it into my piping bag, not scoff it alone….
I had a few teething difficulties with the Pate a Choux with my first two batches ending up flat and nasty. I followed the recipe to the T but still they wouldn’t rise. Until, I worked out that I needed to keep the pan on the heat while adding the flour. Apparantly the steam has something to do with reacting to the flour and making it rise blah blah blah. Whatever the reason, it worked like a charm. No more pancake profiteroles, puffy all the way!
Post baking! Look how puffy they are!
(Im not sure why the pic is so yellow, im still figuring all the photography out.)
Now all that remained was to construct my mountain. With the help of a lot of melted chocolate and a plastic drinking cup, I finally had my Croquembouche! Hooray!
I decorated it with fondant flowers to add a bit of colour
Yes, I ran out of dark chocolate so I had to finish it off with milk. Quite a tasty adaptation!
Croquembouche Recipe – From the Daring Bakers
Creme Patissiere – Ingredients (I needed two batches of the original recipe so I have doubled the ingredients, halve them if you want to make less)
2 cups (450 ml.) full cream milk
4 Tbsp. cornflour
12 Tbsp. (200 g.) sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tsp. Vanilla
1. Dissolve cornflour in 1/2 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornflour mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
4. 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.
5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
Pate a Choux – Ingredients
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
1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
2. Cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
5. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip, pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
7. 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.
At this point you can brush them with an egg wash, I didn’t bother and they were still tasty and pretty!
8. Bake the choux at 425?F/220?C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
9. 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. Make sure you keep an eye on them as they bake, I took mine out after about 10 mins extra because they were beginning to burn on top.
You can use spun sugar to assemble your Croquembouche but after reading many stories of burnt fingers and toes I thought I wouldn’t risk it. Instead I used melted chocolate. Yum!
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. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).
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!