It is that time of the month again, here is the next Daring 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.
Piece Montée, means “mounted piece.” You may know this dessert by another name – Croquembouche (“crunch in the mouth”). The piece montée is the traditional wedding cake in France. They are often served at baptisms and communions as well.
I had never hard of these before I started this but it reminds me of a cream puff and it is really delicious. It is not very hard to make just a little time consuming putting it all together.
Piece Montée, Croquembouche, or Cream puffs
This recipe has 3 main components: the Pate a Choux, the Vanilla Crème Patissiere, and the Chocolate Glaze to mount and decorate it.
While a Piece Montée may be a bit time-consuming to assemble, the various components are relatively easy to make and don’t require any special ingredients. The best part about them is that once you have mastered them, you will be able to go on and make many beloved French French pastries such as éclairs, profiteroles, Paris-Brest, etc. all of which are made with this Pate a Choux recipe, a filling and glaze.
Vanilla Crème Patissiere
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk in one bowl. Then in a separate bowl 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. Should cool for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Pate a Choux
(Makes about 28)
¾ cup water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 425 F 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. 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.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from a ziplock bag and making a little cut in one of the corners). Pipe a 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 425F degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 F 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 box overnight.
Putting it all together:
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 (I again, used a ziplock bag for this). Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.
8 ounces finely chopped semi sweet chocolate. Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée, here is where you can use your imagination, mine was pretty lacking. 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. If you want to do something really fancy you may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place.
Folks will not believe you made this. Have fun and Enjoy!