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Daring Baker Challenge: 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.

“Piece montée” literally means “mounted piece.” You may know this dessert by another name: croquembouche (“crunch in the mouth”). It is a traditional wedding cake in France, and is often served at baptisms and communions as well.

The choux in this challenge gave me a bit of trouble. I followed the directions exactly, and while the puffs were the right consistency (light, airy, and full of room for the pastry cream), they didn’t puff up very much. I even made a second batch and tried again, but I experienced the same results. I did halve the recipe, so I’m not sure if that caused a problem. It was also about 85 degrees in my kitchen, so perhaps the batter was affected by the heat and spread out too quickly on the baking sheet before I could get it into the oven. Other than that, this challenge was a fun one.

For the vanilla crème patissiere:

For the pâte a choux (the ingredients below are for the half batch I made, and it yielded about 14 choux. Double each ingredient to make the full batch of 28 choux):

For the egg wash:

For the chocolate glaze:

To make the pastry cream, pour 1/4 cup of the milk into a small bowl, and add in the cornstarch to dissolve.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup milk with the sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat.

Beat the whole egg into the cornstarch mixture, and then beat in the two yolks. Pour one third of the boiling milk into the egg mixture to temper, whisking constantly.

Once tempered, pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan with the remaining milk. Continue whisking until the cream thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour the cream into a stainless steel bowl and press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the pate a choux, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the water, butter, salt, and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the batter begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to cool slightly. Add one egg. The batter should appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the mixture should look dry, like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. Incorporate the second egg into the mixture.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag with a large open tip, and pipe the choux about 1″ apart on the baking sheet. They should be about 1″ high and 1″ wide. Dip your finger in hot water and gently press down on any tips that have formed on top of the choux (you want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on the tops). Brush with the egg wash.

Bake at 425 degrees until well-puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until golden and dry, about 20 minutes longer. Remove to a rack to cool.

To fill the choux, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux and fill with pastry cream.

To make the chocolate glaze, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler, stirring at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use immediately.

To assemble the dessert, use the glaze to stick the choux together and assemble them into a tower. When finished, decorate with remaining glaze, sugar, ribbons, flowers, etc.

Posted by on May 27, 2010.

Tags:

Categories: desserts & sweets

22 Responses

  1. They are just beautiful. Not sure I’d have the patience to make them, but I’d sure help eat them!

    by Jessica @ How Sweet on May 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

  2. Wow, so pretty!! Great job!

    by Rebecca on May 27, 2010 at 11:20 am

  3. These look wonderful! You did a great job. Yours came out so pretty. They sound delicious. I have never tried. Thanks for the great tutorial. I have been trying to get up the courage to join the Daring Baker’s Challenge. Now that the summer is here, I think I might..still noncommittal..lol. Definitely will try these, though.

    by Raina @ The Garden of Yum on May 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

  4. Thanks for testing out the halved recipe–I’m always looking for scaled down recipes!
    Looks beautiful! 🙂

    by DessertForTwo on May 27, 2010 at 11:53 am

  5. Looks gorgeous lady, I like the chocolate on top.

    by Jennifurla on May 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm

  6. This is so beautiful! So beautiful in fact, it makes me a little sad, because I was talking to a friend last night who was contemplating making a croquembouche either out of a) store bought frozen cream puffs or b) twinkies. This looks a million times better!

    by Beth @ 990 Square on May 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  7. your piece montee turned out lovely. I really like the drizzled chocolate effect. Mine didn’t puff very much either when i piped them, but i did try scooping them with a melon-baller and that seemed to help. It might have been a fluke though. but anyways great job!

    by Leslie on May 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  8. Yours look scrumptious. I like how you’ve drizzled the chocolate.

    by Barbara Bakes on May 28, 2010 at 12:21 am

  9. I’ve made profiteroles a lot and croquembouche a few times, and it always seems to me that they’re best with just fresh whipped whipping cream (heavy cream in the US, I believe) rather than any creme patissiere, and served with a hot chocolate sauce (I just used a ganache last time, and that went down really well).

    That said, these still look utterly delicious!

    by Heleno on May 28, 2010 at 7:01 am

  10. Very well done! Your pièce montée is pretty!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    by Rosa on May 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

  11. You did such a great job on this challenge! It looks delicious!

    by Jen @ How To: Simplify on May 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm

  12. I am loving all of these daring baker desserts, they are all just gorgeous!

    by Jenny Flake on May 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm

  13. Very impressive, very delicious! Wow, wish I could do this.

    by Maggy on May 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

  14. Great job on this challenge!

    by Maria on May 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm

  15. Lovely! They look beautiful 🙂

    by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on May 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

  16. Beautiful job! Your piece montee’ looks great! I love the chocolate swirls!

    by Jenni on May 28, 2010 at 10:10 pm

  17. I think your puff pastry turned out really nicely. What a pretty dessert! You brought back some good memories because I took several courses at the Peter Kump Cooking School (now the Institute of Culinary Education) while living in NYC. How I wish I could attend those classes every week!

    by Cookin' Canuck on May 29, 2010 at 1:17 am

  18. Humidity can definitely wreak havoc on a baker’s success, but these look perfect to me. I bet they taste absolutely delicious, too!

    Am I the only one who just loves saying “croquembouche”? What a fun word. 😀

    by Christine on May 29, 2010 at 11:36 pm

  19. YUMMY! Impressive! I love how you pile them up and drizzle chocolate over.

    by faithy on May 31, 2010 at 12:31 am

  20. sooo pretty! you always do such a beautiful job! i love the way this looks.

    by Tiffany on Jun 1, 2010 at 12:58 am

  21. My husband made croquembouche when he was in culinary school. The funny thing is that all through his pastry class, he would talk about making choux paste, and I kept wondering why they were using shoe paste in pastry! (:

    by Small Town Runner Karen on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

  22. The chocolate drizzle looks so lovely, and yummy! Now I really really want some cream puffs. 🙂

    by ivoryhut on Jun 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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About Sugarcrafter

Hi there! I’m Tracy, and I live in upstate NY. My husband and I met in college and have been married since 2005. A Canning, baking, writing, photography, and even cleaning (yes, cleaning – it can be oddly relaxing), are all things that I enjoy. This blog brings all of those passions together – but […]more →