About Me

I love to keep things fresh. Boredom makes me cringe. I believe in perseverance. Anything new and different inspires me. Photos and stories contained on this blog are my own. I create the majority of my recipes featured as well. If I adapt a recipe or find a great one to share from another source, I will give credit where it is due and a link to the original if at all possible. Please ask prior to using photos, writings and recipes and if using, please link to to the original source. Peace and Happy Blogging!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lovely French Dessert Recipe: My first "Piece Monte" (Mounted Piece) aka Croquembouche (Crunch in the Mouth)

Hello.  I'm back.  Please forgive me for just now posting an old May recipe/writeup.  I've had camera malfunctions, office relocations, and many other "issues" that have drained all creative flows right up.  However, today is the first day that I have been able to apply photographs to this.  I'll try very hard to make it up to you.  I really have missed y'all! So here goes the beginning of what I like to call "damage control".

Get ready!  It's a lengthy one.  Maybe a weekend project? 

Do you just love Cream Puffs?  What about Eclairs (not the doughnut eclairs, the real eclairs)?  These are some of my favorite desserts, especially those from Poupart's Bakery in my hometown.  They make them fresh and when you purchase them they are perfect and cold from refrigeration.  The Cream Puffs are so light, delicate and sweetly sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with Vanilla Pastry Cream.  The Eclairs are the shape of a cigar, about the width of two of them and long enough to eat in two bites.  Filled with Chocolate Creme Patissiere and topped with chocolate ganache, they are just the right amount of sweet, not overly so, which can be a curse sometimes, like after eating a half dozen or so in one sitting. 

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.


*** 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.

3)  Pour 1/3 of boiling milk (about 1/2 cup) into the egg mixture, whisking quickly and constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

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.

6)  Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately until ready to use.  The Creme Patissiere should be completely cooled.  This can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

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.

6)  Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

7)  As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
8)  It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

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.
10)  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.
11)  Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

12)  Baking:  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.  These can be stored in an airtight container overnight.

Part 3:  Filling the Choux (Puffs)

Nest Essentials:  A Piping Bag with a small Star tip or plain tip

Choux (or Puffs)
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.

3)  Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Do not let the sugar get too dark of an amber color or it will have a burnt taste. 

4)  Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Don't leave it for too long or it will become overly thick.

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.

Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!


collin said...

I love desserts. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I will surely try this out.

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Anonymous said...

Yummy!!! you will have to come over one weekend and help me make this! I've always wanted to try this!

Medifast Coupons said...

Wow you did an awesome job. Thanks for all the pictures, they really help me out with a new recipe. I can't wait to impress with this one.

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