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. You can find all the challenge recipes here.
I was scared when I read what the challenge would be for May. What is a Piece Montée? Croquembouche? Profiteroles? Cream puffs? I’ve never heard any of these words, but the pictures of completed challenges that some daring bakers shared in the forum looked so extremely good that I knew these would taste awesome! I had plans for different croquembouches. I wanted to make profiteroles with a mango and lime juice filling or with mango curd, another idea was to make colored profiteroles, yet another idea was to make profiteroles with a chocolate-orange custard filling… All these recipes are on my to-do list, but this was a VERY busy month so I only made the (almost) basic version from the challenge recipe: profiteroles with chocolate pastry cream.
I had some trouble piping the profiteroles. I tried the Hershey kiss route on some, then tried spiraling others, but none of the results really convinced me. Does anyone have a foolproof way to pipe nice, even profiteroles? The chocolate pastry cream was to die for! SO YUMMY. When I filled the profiteroles with the pastry cream I was hoping there would be something left for me, but I didn’t even have enough for all the profiteroles. Actually, plain profiteroles are very yummy, too. They remind me of “Spritzkuchen”, only that they are without the icing (aka French crullers, a fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry with a light airy texture – these are very traditional in Germany).
I’m not sure I’ll make a croquembouche again because it’s so time-consuming, but I know for sure that I’ll make profiteroles again soon! So, thanks, Cat, for a wonderful challenge that made me learn what pâte à choux/ choux pastry (aka Brandteig) is.
Chocolate Pastry Cream Croquembouche
Chocolate Pastry Cream
- 1 1/4 cup milk, divided
- 2 T cornstarch
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 T sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- 1 t vanilla
- Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine 3/4 cup of milk with the sugar in a saucepan, bring to boil and 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 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.
- Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat, add in the chocolate and mix until smooth.
- Whisk into pastry cream together with the butter and vanilla.
Pâte à choux/ Choux Pastry
Yield: about 28
- ¾ cup water
- 6 T unsalted butter
- ¼ t salt
- 1 T sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- Pre-heat oven to 425◦F. 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.
- 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. Pipe choux about 1 inch apart in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high and 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.
- Bake the choux at 425◦F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 350◦F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.
Filling the choux
- 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.
- Melt 8 oz of chopped semi-sweet chocolate in microwave or double boiler.
- Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning.
Assembly of the Piece Montée:
- Dip the top of each choux in your glaze, 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.