May 26, 2010

Challenging myself:Daring Baker's Challenge Piece Montée

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.

This months challenge I used to make my life a little easier. Last week the twins turned 4 and I needed something for preschool. Normally a tray of Muffins would have been good enough. But having to do this challenge, knowing that the kids would love to get some of this creamy sticky mess I just had to do it for them. I filled them with Banana flavored Cream ( this was the request of one minute younger).

So I baked the Puffs Sunday night and filled and decorated them with the boys right before we had to go. I had them cut out little Birds, using the Marshmallow Fondant while I was having a sugar crisis.

I have to confess I hate to make caramel. I always burn myself, I always burn the first batch, I always want to eat it.

But believe me it was worth it. The kids did go crazy loving the Birds ( the group my boys are in is called the Blackbirds). Only seconds after setting them down the plate was empty and I got adoring looks from 28 Kids. 

My Boys called me supermom on the way home and yes in that moment I felt like one.

Go take a look at the delicious things the others did. And if you want to try it yourself get a printable version of the Recipe Here!


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.

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).

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.

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!

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 here.
2) Assembling croquembouche using the interior of a cylinder here.
3) Asembling Free-standing Croquembouche with Chocolate Glaze here.
4) Assembling a Croquembouche with Toothpicks and Cone here.
Here’s a link to a dairy-free pate a choux and crème patisserie recipe here.

May 17, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday: Birds and Nests

Finally I was able to take a picture of our Muffin Tin ( yes I know it is not a Tin) Snack.

So I just have to post about it and take Part in the Muffin Tin Monday.

I love to see what all the others do and maybe you would also have fun.

Just go to Muffin Tin Mom and be amazed.

For our first time we did something simple, we had whole grain toast Duck with cream cheese, Bird sausage in a nest made out of carrot salad and some peanuts as bird feed.

The twins loved it.

May 16, 2010

Let us eat Cake: Red Train and Farming Tractor Cakes made with Marshmallow Fondant

First of all Happy Birthday to my little Boys. 

Four Years ago I became a Mother and even if it took 3 more days for me to see them for the first time I loved them long before I had the pleasure to get to know them.

This two Gentlemen make my life Heaven and Hell and I would do anything for them. 

Even baking 2 Cakes with 8 layers of Vanilla Cake, German Butter Cream and Homemade Raspberry Jam.

I covered them with Marshmallow Fondant, I found a wonderful Recipe at Bake at 350.

One minute older wanted a Train ( no surprise he is obsessed) one minute younger wanted a Tractor. 

So having nothing better to do I made them, I made them big, I made them red.

How do you like them? I think the Train looks cute, but the Tractor looks more like a Racing Car.

Marshmallow Fondant

16 oz. bag mini marshmallows
3 TBSP water
2 lbs. powdered sugar

I use a mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar for rolling

Grease a large glass bowl with Crisco.

Pour in the marshmallows and water in the bowl. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until melted.

Reserve about 1/4 c. powdered sugar. Place the rest of the powdered sugar in the large bowl of a standing mixer. Grease the paddle attachment with Crisco. Pour the melted marshmallows onto the powdered sugar.

Beat until a dough forms. There will be lots of loose bits and sugar in the bottom of the bowl.

Grease a clean work surface with Crisco and dump out the fondant and all loose bits. Grease hands liberally with Crisco and knead the mixture together, just like kneading bread, for about 5 minutes until smooth.

Grease hands again as needed. As the fondant becomes smoother, use the reserved powdered sugar to coat the surface to keep it from sticking.

Once smooth, you can divide and color the fondant. While working with one piece, cover the remaining fondant with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

When you have your colors finished, or just keep it all white, coat the fondant in a light layer of Crisco. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a large bag. Let rest overnight. Store at room temperature for several months.

To use it, dust the surface and rolling pin with cornstarch/powdered Sugar Mix and roll to 1/8th of an inch and decorate away.

May 14, 2010

Challenging myself : Daring Cooks Mai Challenge Stacked Chicken Mole Enchilada

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

I have not been able to cook the original challenge. It was impossible to get most  of the Ingredients and the ones I would have been able to get would have cost a fortune.

So I made Flour Tortillias using a mix of plain flour and Amaranth Flour. The tasted pretty good and it was so easy that I will not buy the stale stuff from the store again.

As it came to the sauce I used the Quick Chicken Mole receipt that has been given to us.

It tasted good, not good enough for my 3 men but good enough for me.

I will make sure to give the original version a try if my Tomatillo plants do grow in our German weather.

Go and take a look at the lovely things the other Daring Cooks did and maybe you give it a try yourself.





1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams - roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)

7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams - peel, remove stems

4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)

1 clove Garlic, minced

2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)

¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)

2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)

Hot sauce, your favorite, optional

2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)

3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)

Kosher salt and pepper

12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)

6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)

Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional




Roasting Fresh Chiles


1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.

2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.

3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.

4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.



Green Chile Sauce


1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.

2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.

3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.

6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.


Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas


1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.

3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.

4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.

5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).

6. Drain on paper towels.

7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.

8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.

9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.

10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.

11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.

12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.

13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.


Additional Information:


Roasting chiles: Whether you roast the chiles on a grill, under the broiler, or use the gas burner element on your stove will affect the time it takes. If you do all the chiles at once on a grill or using the broiler, it will take 15- 30 minutes, plus time to steam (10 minutes) and time to peel and remove seeds (20 minutes).


Cooking tomatillos: If you boil the tomatillos, it will take 5 -10 minutes. If you grill them, it will take 2-5 minutes. If you broil them, it will take 8-12 minutes. This can be done the same time the chiles are roasting. After they are cooked, they need to be pureed, which takes a few seconds in a blender.


Cooking chicken: If you grill your chicken, it takes about 5 or 6 minutes per side for boneless chicken breasts- depending on thickness of breasts. Other pieces (thighs, for example) or bone-in chicken will take longer. If you roast your chicken, a bone-in breast takes about 30 minutes (depending on size). Be sure chicken is done but not overcooked, since it will be in the oven in the last stage of the recipe.


Corn Tortillas (from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)

Makes about 15


1 3/4 cups masa harina

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water


Pour hot water over masa harina, cover and let sit 30 minutes. Add (additional) cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 balls and cover with plastic wrap.


Heat a large (two burner) ungreased griddle or two large skillets, one on medium-low and one on medium-high.


Put a ball of dough between two sheets of plastic. If you don’t have a tortilla press, press to a 5-6” circle using a heavy frying pan or bread board or other heavy, flat object. Put the tortilla into the cooler pan or cooler end of the griddle. The tortilla will probably stick, but within 15 seconds, if the temperature is correct, it will release. Flip it at that point onto the hotter skillet/griddle section. In 30-45 seconds, it should be dotted with brown underneath. Flip it over, still on the hot surface and brown another 30 seconds or so. A good tortilla will balloon up at this point. Remove from heat and let them rest while cooking the remaining tortillas. 

May 13, 2010

Let us eat Cake: Rhabarber Kuchen – Rhubarb Cake

Do you like Rhubarb?

I do.

But only in Cake form and only if the Rhubarb is so soft that its melting on you tongue.

There is nothing as horrible as undercooked Rhubarb that gives you the felling of fur on your tongue.

This is a German cake, economical and delicious. That`s the way I like it. 

But the best Part about this cake is that you can make it a strawberry cake, gooseberry cake or a blackberry cake by just replacing  the key ingredient.

Try it and love it.

Rhabarber Kuchen – Rhubarb Cake

3        Eggs

270g  Flour

1t       Backing powder

170g  Butter

170g  Sugar

700g  Rhubarb

40g    Cornstarch


fresh whipped cream for serving


After separate the eggs. Knead the Egg yolks, Flour, Backing Powder, Butter and half of the  Sugar into a dough. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven 180°C.

Now clean and the Rhubarb, cutting it lengthways to then cut it into small dice.

Use parchment paper for the bottom of  a spring form pan. Roll out the dough and put it into the pan. Make sure that you have a high rim. With a  Fork prick the dough all over.

Beat the Egg whites until you have stiff peaks, add the left Sugar slowly. Mix the Rhubarb with the starch, add the Rhubarb into the Egg whites and finally spread it over the dough.

Bake for 1 hour. Carefully while the cake is still warm remove from the pan. Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Serve with fresh cream.