Thursday, May 27, 2010
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. Her instructions follow (with notes from me) as they are very easy to follow!
You'll be surprised at how quick and easy this pastry is to make.. definitely not as intimidating as it looks! I very much enjoyed this month's challenge - it's something I would have never thought to make on my own, but will now make it whenever I want to impress someone visually or gastronomically!
This recipe has 3 main components: the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the glaze used to mount/decorate it. While you can purchase or make a cardboard conical structure to build your piece montée or use toothpicks as an aid, it is relatively easy to assemble using just the baked pate a choux as the main building blocks and the glaze as the "glue".
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, and profiteroles which are made with this pate a choux recipe, a filling and glaze.
Preparation time: You will want to use your puff pastry batter and chocolate glaze or caramel as soon as it has been prepared and as close to serving time as possible. This is not a dessert that stores well and it may be a bit temperamental in humid areas as the glaze needs to harden to hold the choux together. The crème patissiere can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use (I am told it also freezes well once baked but have not tested this myself).
You will need approximately 10 minutes to prepare the puff pastry, 10 minutes to pipe and about 30 minutes to bake each batch. The crème patissiere should take about 10 minutes to cook and then will need to be cooled for at least 6 hours or overnight. The glazes take about 10 minutes to prepare.
• several baking sheets
• parchment paper
• a whisk
• a pastry brush (for the egg wash)
• a pastry bag and tip (a plain tip or no tip is best for piping the puff pastry; you can use a plain or star tip to fill the puff pastry with the cream)
• a flat surface such as a baking sheet or cake board/stand on which to assemble your piece montée
For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere1 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
What to do:
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.
Note: Although easy to make you can replace the patissiere with Bird's Custard - Just make the "dessert" version on the can. When I take this short cut I just add the contents of a vanilla bean and sometimes a bit of rum or kahlua!
Ingredients for 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.
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.
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. You really must stir it with quite a bit of force to incorporate the eggs, but you can do it!
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip) or a ziploc bag with one end cut. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. I recommend trying to do this without "twirling the dough (like a DQ ice cream) as it can produce funny looking pastries. Try to make a nice "blob" instead.
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). Note: I forgot the salt and it was fine.
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. They don't take long to 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. You'll be surprised at just how much filling one of these little things can hold! 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 glazes to top your choux and assemble your piece montée. I recommend the chocolate as the caramel is very hard and very sharp! At the very least I suggest using the chocolate as glue if possible and the spun sugar caramel as decoration.
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 or lime 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. Note: BE CAREFUL AS YOU CAN EASILY BURN YOURSELF.
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.
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. Enjoy!