What do these two desserts have in common? Besides being filled with delicious pastry cream or Creme Patissiere, they are both made with an eggy and light pastry batter called Pate a Choux. If you fancy either of these, you will definitely fall head over heels for this dessert recipe. Pate a Choux, Pastry Cream and Crackling Caramel combine to create this Piece Montee, or "mounted piece", also known as a Croquembouche which in French means "Crunch in the mouth". This is a Classic French dessert often served at weddings and other special occasions. The Pastry Puffs, referred to as Choux, are filled with creme patissiere, dipped in Caramel or Chocolate, and arranged in a conical shape. Get ready to experience a range of mouthfeels, the crunch of the caramel, lightness of the Pate a Choux and the creamy vanilla pastry. It's quite an experience that everyone should try at least once, which will not likely be the last.
Previously I posted a recipe for Grilled Chicken and Green Chile Enchilada Stacks. It was the recipe for the May Challenge for the Daring Cooks club that I am a member of. Daring Cooks is a component of The Daring Kitchen. Well, another component to The Daring Kitchen is Daring Bakers. This Piece Montee or Croquembouche is the May Challenge for the Daring Bakers.
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 have to admit, I would have never attempted this recipe without being prompted to do so. For some reason I thought that there was no chance, come hell or high water, that my Choux would ever Puff. Well, puff they did! The tricky part for me was the caramel. As I pointed out previously, it seems that I must make two if not three attempts at everything that I do in order to get it right, so I am sure that my next attempt will be even more pleasing. I stuck to the basics on this one as I figured it was a good starting point for a beginner such as myself. This go at it was not a waste, in fact it was mighty tasty! A fantastic and definite challenge. I felt quite accomplished in the end, and you will too.
Of course, my girl, Martha Stewart has attempted successfully to make a mini croquembouche and you can access it here on this link, http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/marthas-famous-croquembouche , provided to us by our hostess of the May Daring Bakers challenge.
RECIPE: PIECE MONTEE aka CROQUEMBOUCHE
*** Note, this is a 5 part recipe. Cat from Little Miss Cupcake did a very thorough job of presenting the recipe, which I followed almost exactly, so the majority of it was copy and pasted from the Daring Bakers website, with very few minor adjustments. I would recommend, as did the recipe, making the Creme Patissiere first, the Pate a Choux "Puffs" second, and lastly right prior to stacking make the caramel. The caramel cannot be made ahead of time to my knowledge.***
Part 1: Vanilla Creme Patissiere
Nest Essentials: Medium Saucepan, Whisk, Plastic Wrap, Stainless Steel/Ceramic/Glass Bowl for cooling Creme Patissiere.
2 cups whole milk
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
12 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tsp. Vanilla
1) Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of milk. Beat the whole eggs, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Set aside.
2) Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
4) Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
5) 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.
Part 2: Pate a Choux (Make the Puffs)
Nest Essentials: Two Baking Sheets ( I used baking stones), Parchment Paper, Pastry Brush, Piping Bag, Medium Saucepan, Wooden Spoon
Makes approximately 28 Puffs
3/4 cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
1) Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees.
2) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3) 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.
4) Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
5) Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
7) As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
9) Piping: Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip or 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. Don't give into the urge to make them larger, they will puff up.
1 batch of Creme Patissiere
1) Fill the Piping Bag with Creme Patissiere
2) Using the Tip of the Piping Bag, Punch a small hole in the side or bottom of the Choux and fill with Creme Patissiere.
3) Set aside and go right to the next step.
Part 4: Make the Caramel Glaze
Nest Essentials: A small to medium Saucepan and a Metal Spoon, Pan with high sides 1/4 filled with Ice water for a quick cool
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1) Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand.
2) Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke.
5) Proceed immediately to the next step.
Part 5: Assemble the Piece Montee/ Croquembouche
Nest Essentials: A large platter, cakeboard, or cake stand upon which to stack the filled and glazed choux.
1) 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.
2) 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/platter/stand. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.
3) 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.