Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Daring Bakers-- Piece Montée (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.

I failed miserably at this challenge. I'm not sure how-- the recipe itself seemed rather straight forward and simple; without any special ingredients or components. I'm not sure exactly where I went wrong, but I do know that my Pate a Choux never rose into rounded shapes. They were flat and spread out. I could tell as I was incorporating the eggs that my batter was too runny. I followed the directions exactly, but could tell as I tried to pipe it onto the parchment paper that it was never going to turn out.

Because my Pate a Choux made discs instead of nice balls, I wasn't really able to mount my piece and give it any height. So instead, I just attempted to fill them with the vanilla cream and frosted them with some chocolate ganache and had some cream puffs instead of the classic cone-shaped piece montée.

While they may not be pretty (and definitely not wedding cake-worthy), they tasted scrumptious!

The only way I was going to get any height out of my dessert was by stacking it into a glass!

If you'd like to see what the results of this challenge really were supposed to look like, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll. If you'd like to see more of my failed attempt at this challenge, read on.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)

1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 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 the Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)

3/4 cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 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.

This is where I noticed mine to be too loose: I wonder if I should have only used 3 eggs?

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.

As you can see, I did not need to do this. Mine were way to runny. (Um... apparently one of my children were playing with my camera and not only set it so the time stamp shows up, but set the time stamp incorrectly! Aack!)

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F 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.

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.

I used a little metal piping tool I have to fill the pastry. Some of them were so flat, they couldn't be filled so I had to just use two of them to sandwich the vanilla cream!

Use one of the following to top your choux and assemble your piece montée:

Chocolate Glaze:
1 part heavy whipping cream
3 parts finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Combine and melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Since mine was not able to be stacked like a classic piece montée, I just glazed mine with chocolate and called it a day.


Here is the inside of one of the puffs I was able to fill:

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
1/2 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!


LahTeaDah said...

Fabulous BLog Michele!
My eye seems to catch any blog name with the word TEA in it. Came across your blog on the Daring Baker's Blog. I will be a follower, for sure. Great recipes and brilliant pictures... I shall give your recipes a try - sooner rather than later.


Ann Minard said...

But they do look delicious and that is the most important thing!
I bet it was a humid day where you live and maybe that's why they were runny?

Ruth H. said...

Flat or not, those puffs look delicious! Your dedication to the challenge is great, and I would have been proud to have had something like that as the dessert at my wedding!!

Mess Maker said...

Kudos to you! Not everything can work out and I love how you persevered to make the best out of it. It doesn't have to look great to taste great!

Rachel said...

am sorry it didn't work out for you but what you did looks amazing...