June 6, 2010

Croquembouche or Piece Montee for Daring Baker's Challenge


First of all, let me apologize to all my readers for posting late for May 2010 Daring Baker's challenge. We decided to take a vacation without much advance planning and so I was away on my vacation!! I totally forgot about preparing the post eventhough I completed the challenge well ahead of time this month! Thanks, Twinsy Rachel for your message of support! :-) I really appreciate it!

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.

I was really excited about the challenge because eventhough we have made pate a choux eclairs before for Daring Bakers, this challenge involved stacking them up into a piece montee and creating awesome caramel art! The initial pictures on the forum was so encouraging I just couldn't wait to start my attempt. The challenge was amazing also because it took me about 4-5 hours to complete the whole thing, including the baking!!

The batter was a breeze to prepare although it involved some serious stirring!! The choux baked excellent and were beautifully browned on the outside with a sheen because of the egg wash! The chocolate pastry cream filling was amazing and again easy to prepare. I should've doubled the recipe of the pastry cream, because in the end I couldn't fill the choux to the full.

I assembled the croquembouche using hard caramel glaze which gave me some serious burns!, but still it held the pieces together beautifully. The caramel art completed my croquembouche and I was proud of my creation eventhough it isn't as elaborate as some of the other ones my fellow DBers came up with!!!

VERDICT:

I took this to a party with my friends and they were all really impressed, to say the least!! The only downside was that I didn't have enough for everyone, so we had to share, which nobody was happy about! :-) The filled choux tasted amazing!! I decided that I would try this again before the posting deadline, but finally didn't get enough time! I would love to make this again with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache glue, but I would definitely double the choux recipe so as to make a towering piece montee!!

This challenge one of my most favorite Daring Baker Challenges of all times for sure!! Thanks to Cat of Little Miss Cupcake again for this amazing challenge!



Ingredients:

For the Vanilla 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

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.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.


For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):

Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

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.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in 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.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

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.



Piping:

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).

Baking:

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 a airtight box overnight.

Filling:

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.


Chocolate Glaze:

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. (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!


Do try this recipe out and I am sure you all would love it!!! Thanks for visiting Tasty treats and have a great week ahead!!



3 comments:

Sukanya Ramkumar said...

This is so cool. Turned out perfect for u. Nice pics....

Asha said...

Good to see your post again. Montee looks gorgeous.

Twinsy Rachel said...

I am not sure if i really entered "publish ur comment" key.. here I go again, was away from the virtual world for a fortnight. Miss u in action for DB challenge. I hope all is well with u