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.


Anonymous said...

Very nicely done. Love it! Lvoe the colourful birds!

chef_d said...

Looks very pretty! Glad all the kids loved it, especially your boys!

maybelles mom said...

alright, you are a very cool mom to take this for schoool. the boys are lucky.

Excellent eten said...

Great to have such a cool mam!! Looks great !!!

anchan said...

Such high praise from your boys - and very well deserved! You must have really wowed the class when you walked in carrying this creation! :-D

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Love your cute birdies!!!

Namratha said...

Colorful and your spun sugar is so delicate, nicely done!

Ruth H. said...

Great job, Supermom! I love seeing how other moms include their kids in the kitchen. your boys did great work, as did you! What lucky kiddos you have, and what a lucky mom you are!

Sinful Southern Sweets said...

Great job! I adore your little birds. So cute! I agree with the caramel. I burnt myself like 3 times making this. And, why is it that we feel we must taste the scorching hot lava like caramel. I know everytime I make it that its going to burn my mouth and everytime I taste it anyways:)

Suz said...

Aw, your boys are sweet. :) Your croquembouche looks fabulous - what a birthday treat. No wonder they call your Supermom! I love the colourful birds and banana cream filling sounds wonderful too.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

How cute with the colorful birds!

Saskia said...

The birds are so cute! I bet the kids were so impressed with this! I still remember one of the mothers bringing a croquembouche to school for my friend's birthday when we were about 7 years old. These things stay with kids forever!

Sue said...

Your Piece Montee is so adorable! What a great treat for your twins to share on their birthday! I'm sure they felt special:)

Jeanne said...

I love all the colors that you used, and the birds are beautiful! I can see how the kids would love to pull this apart and devour it!

Baking Addict said...

The birds are so cute! Well done supermom:)

Renata said...

You are indeed a Supermom! I can almost see the kids' eyes glowing! Your Pièce Montée is very cute and looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

The fondant birds are such a cute touch- great idea for kids!

Anonymous said...

The fondant birds are such a cute touch- great idea for kids!

Kris Ngoei said...

I am so happy for you ..... for the Super Mom moment that you had with your kids!

This Croquembouche looks so attractive and scrumptious. Cute little birds!!

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Wolf said...

What a great idea for a school treat! And the birds are cute!