Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge - Croquembouche

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.
It's amazing what a little over confidence can do to you-I love pate a choux-and I thought I was pretty good at making eclairs, swans and cream puffs using the choux.  So when I saw this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge-I thought great no problem ,piece of cake.  Ha-the choux was the least of my worries-it was the building of the piece montee that was my downfall!  You see Seattle and caramel glaze do not a marriage make-especially during Spring rain showers.  I was so proud of my little piece montee and couldn't wait to get up at the crack of dawn to photograph it-figuring I would have some great early morning light.  Well imagine my surprise when I came around the bend into the kitchen and saw caramel glaze dripping off the cake stand and sad little puffs that had rolled off the piece montee onto  the counter top and floor.  So back to the drawing board.
Fortunately the Vanilla Creme Patissiere and the Pate a Choux are not complicated and the recipes provided by Cat were excellent.  My cream puffs have never been more airy or tastier !  The 2nd time around I knew not to even attempt the caramel glaze and decided on chocolate ganache.  But I didn't want a giant cream puff tower covered in chocolate so I decided to add some Belgian Sugar Pearls to half the batch of choux just before baking.  I applied the sugar just after the egg wash.  They turned out so pretty and had a nice  crunch from the sugar-the next time I make cream puffs I'm going to make the entire batch with the sugar-very tasty.


Quel Horrible ! And the pretty spun sugar -all gone

Vanilla Creme Patissiere

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.

Cooling the Pate a Choux

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.

Pate a Choux ready to pipe
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).

My little choux

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.

So pretty and brown and so light

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.

Love the Belgian Sugar

Sometime this summer, when it is dry I will try them again with the caramel glaze !

Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 oz good quality chocolate-finely chopped

Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.  Take the boiling cream and pour it over the finely chopped chocolate.  Gently shake the bowl so that all of the chocolate is covered by the cream.  Let it sit for 2 minutes then gently whisk until the chocolate is melted.  

Here is the rest of the instructions if you are brave enough to try the caramel 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!
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:


bellini valli said...

Only you could rise to the challenge a second time Sandy. They look so elegant sitting there with their sweet and sugary coats.

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Thank you-it was a very sad moment when I first saw the disaster !