The Daring Bakers’ Challenges 05/10: 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. 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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Return the milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
  4. 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.
  5. Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat, add in the chocolate and mix until smooth.
  6. Whisk into pastry cream together with the butter and vanilla.

Pâte à choux/ Choux Pastry

Yield: about 28

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. 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.
  3. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
  5. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
  6. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
  7. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Bake the choux at 425◦F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  11. 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

  1. When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux.
  2. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet.
  3. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

  1. Melt 8 oz of chopped semi-sweet chocolate in microwave or double boiler.
  2. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning.

Assembly of the Piece Montée:

  1. Dip the top of each choux in your glaze, and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet.
  2. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

21 responses to “The Daring Bakers’ Challenges 05/10: Croquembouche

  1. Wow, these look incredible!!! I think my family would’ve eaten the entire batch right then and there. Yum!

  2. I pipe directly over the pan, not from the side. But, mostly, its just practice and making more than you need, so that you can pick and choose the ones to use.

  3. Nice job! Looks gorgeous with the chocolate and the sprinkles🙂

  4. Well, thanks for informing me on what brandteig is! These are gorgeous! I love how you used the rainbow sprinkles.

  5. They came out great! Yeah, I am so not good with a piping bag, and the dough was pretty sticky, so I could use some suggestions, too, on making them even, but regardless, they came out great. Great job with the challenge!

  6. I learned a good trick for piping them when I took the pastry class. Basically hold the nozzle about 1″ off the baking try and push out the dough, keep the nozzle in place letting the dough come up higher around it, that will make a nice round shape, pull up slowly and twist off so there is no (or almost no) ‘kiss’ at the top… hope that makes sense?
    anyway, they look gorgeous and delicious!!

  7. Your croquembouche is very cute, I love the touch of sprinkles… reminds me of my childhood (woah, that made me sound old :P). But anyways, way to go on this month’s DB challenge… you rocked it!

  8. Looks delicious! Wish I’d thought of using sprinkles – it probably would have made it more enticing for my kids. Great job!

  9. Oh, that looks phenomenal! I love the sprinkles – such an adorable touch🙂.

  10. NICE!! Sorry they were difficult to pipe. Maybe you can try dropping teaspoonfuls next time. That does work too, but I think, in any case, it’s the consistency of the choux which matters most. Well done on the challenge!

  11. Beautiful job!! I like the sprinkles- makes me want to make them all over again.

  12. Lovely work. The sprinkles are very festive, and chocolate pastry cream sounds fabulous.

  13. you did a great job though! Make them long and call them ecairs!

  14. Great job. Love the chocolate and sprinkles. I didnt have enough cream to fill all the puffs either. It definitely tasted good on its own but even better with the cream.

  15. I love your Pièce with the chocolate and sprinkles. Well done on this challenge!

  16. Don’t give up on pate a choux! It’s actually quite fast and easy once you get the hang of it. Great work

  17. I love French Cruellers, never thought about them being made the same way.}:P
    chocolate and orange sounds divine! Hee.

  18. Seeing your gorgeous, chocolate dipped, rainbow sprinkled croquembouche makes me wish I had used chocolate instead of burning my fingers glazing each puff in hot sugar lol Beautifully done as always!

  19. Wow your croquembouche looks delicious, I love how you decorated it with the brightly coloured sprinkles too🙂 it looks so pretty🙂

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