Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 2010 DB challenge - pièce montée or croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a pièce montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Recipe Source: The recipes I am using for this month’s challenge come from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and were originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri. Please note you must make your own pate a choux (puff pastry) and crème patissiere. And your piece montée needs to be a mounted structure with some height to it.

This will have to be a quick posting I'm on a short holiday down to Melbourne for the Eurovision song competition.

Pièce montée are a wonderful and fairly easy dessert that is spectacular to the eye. And it has the added bonus of being absolutely delicious.

Also the recipes provided proved to be easy (by most of the comments in the Daring Bakers' forums) and very tasty. The only piece of advice is that when making the puffs a lot of bakers got good results just using three eggs instead of the four suggested in the recipe I think is due to the size of the eggs - the puff batter needs to be like thick mayonnaise.

Please try this dessert - it really is the worth the effort.

I made three versions - one sweet and two savoury!

One sweet croquembouche

I wanted to do a trial pièce monté to see how the recipe worked – I always thought that this very fancy looking dessert wouldn't be that good tasting but I was wrong they are so delicious and such fun to eat and they are so gooey wonderful for kids (and adults).

I made a ½ batch of the choux puff balls I still got 32 puffs and I needed a whole batch of the cream filling. I used 85% dark chocolate with a coffee cream filling. This was marvellous I really liked the bitter chocolate topping and the very sweet filling yum yum.

The unbaked puffs

The baked puffs

The finished pièce monté

Two Savoury Croquembouches
I wanted to do some savoury croquembouches using herb puffs these were amazing, so delicious. They were so much better than I could imagine the herbs really work well in the puffs. Each croquembouche served 12 people as an entrée.

Herb flavoured puffs – rosemary and chives on left; dill puffs on right

Hollow crisp puff

Two savoury croquembouches
Herb Puff Blue Cheese Croquembouche with Honeyed Walnuts with Prickly Pear Syrup and Dragon fruit balls
This was so good I used skewers to place the puffs. Prickly pear tastes like watermelon with a just hint of bubblegum and dragon fruit has no taste but it really picks up the flavour of other ingredients it has the most delightful mouth feel and looks gorgeous. The honeyed walnuts and prickly pear syrup pairs so well with the salty blue cheese and the rosemary is spot-on with the total flavour profile, these tastes are so well balanced this was a very memorable entrée.

Prickly pear and dragon fruit

Final croquembouche

How the skewers work

Choux pastry – add 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, leave out the sugar.
Filling – blue cheese, sour cream and cream cheese to taste add some extra rosemary if you wish
Topping – toasted walnuts add honey and make dragon fruit balls
Syrup – the juice of 2 prickly pears, ½ cup honey (I used iron bark), simmer until very thick.

The salty cheese was superb with the sweet topping so lovely.

Deluxe Seafood & quail eggs croquembouche with lemon gastrique
This was really decadent and luscious so creamy and smooth. Yum yum. The quail egg goes so well with the seafood especially the caviar, this very rich and the dill combines so well with all the ingredients it really binds and harmonizes all the tastes together.

Choux pastry – add 1 tablespoon each of chives and dill, leave out the sugar.
Filling – quail egg; and the filling consists of lobster, salmon pieces, crab meat, truffle oil and caviar add cheese cream and heavy cream to taste and consistency
Topping – dill, salmon strips,
Gastrique – the juice and zest of 1 lemon, ½ cup sugar and ½ cup of rice vinegar simmer until thick

In each puff place a quail egg, add the filling then use some of the filling to make the croquembouche. Cover with gasrique and salmon strip and extra dill.

Advice with tips and hints
Pâte à choux dough, know as panade, is the only dough that is cooked before being baked. It consists of water, butter, flour, and eggs. During baking the eggs help form a thin crust on the outside, while the steam trapped inside expands giving to the choux pastries the typical puffed hollow shape.

1) Make sure that the cooked water/flour/butter has cooled down below 140F (60C) before adding the eggs or else you will scrambled them! Remember to add the eggs one at a time. For the first egg I use a cold one straight from the fridge that way it is less likely to scramble. The quantity of egg should be just right. If the recipe calls for 4 eggs add the first 3 (one egg at a time) and the last a little at a time in order to control the consistency. Too much egg will cause the panade to be too liquid and unable to hold the shape when is baked. It should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise.

2) The panade needs to be cooked carefully till is smooth and dry. If it is undercooked the ingredients could be unevenly mixed, and it would retain too much moisture. If the bottom of the pan is covered with a thin whitish crust this is an indication that the dough is sufficiently dried. Do not attempt to scrape up the floury film that forms on the bottom and sides of the pan – just let it be.

3) Do the preparation very quickly. Piping and baking the panade immediately when still warm will help lightness and expansion. This is the biggest tip do the piping fast!

4) Bake the pastries until they are crisp, dry and golden. If the pastries are undercooked they could collapse when they are removed from the oven. Also it is preferable to cool the pastries slowly in the oven or else they might collapse.

These are the three most common problem areas with pâte à choux preparation:
* Insufficient beating of water, flour and butter before adding eggs – the water/flour/butter batter needs to develop sufficiently (i.e. dried out) to provide structure
* Failure to incorporate eggs one at a time – the eggs need to be beaten enough to provide leavening
* Baking at too low a temperature or removing puffs before fully baked – the water in the dough needs to steam to leaven the dough as well

Note: This recipe has 3 main components: the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the glaze used to mount/decorate it. While you can purchase or make a cardboard conical structure to build your piece montée or use toothpicks as an aid, it is relatively easy to assemble it using just the baked pate a choux as the main building blocks and the glaze as the glue.

While a piece montée may be a bit time-consuming to assemble, the various components are relatively easy to make and don’t require any special ingredients. The best part about them is that once you have mastered them, you will be able to go on and make many beloved French French pastries such as éclairs, profiteroles, Paris-Brest, etc. all of which are made with this pate a choux recipe, a filling and glaze.

Variations allowed: I am providing the recipes for 3 variations on the crème patissiere: vanilla, coffee and chocolate but please feel free to flavor your crème patissiere in any flavor of your choosing or a mix of different flavors. You may use either a chocolate glaze or caramel or both (recipes provided) to build your piece montée. You must use the recipe provided for the the pate a choux batter however. As for the structure, feel free to be creative as you want – but it must be a “mounted piece” meaning that it has some height; you may decorate it with any objects you desire.

Preparation time: You will want to use your puff pastry batter and chocolate glaze or caramel as soon as it has been prepared and as close to serving time as possible. This is not a dessert that stores well and it may be a bit temperamental in humid areas as the glaze needs to harden to hold the choux together. The crème patissiere can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use.

You will need approximately 10 minutes to prepare the puff pastry, 10 minutes to pipe and about 30 minutes to bake each batch. The crème patissiere should take about 10 minutes to cook and then will need to be cooled for at least 6 hours or overnight. The glazes take about 10 minutes to prepare.

Equipment required:
• several baking sheets
• parchment paper
• a whisk
• a pastry brush (for the egg wash)
• a pastry bag and tip (a plain tip or no tip is best for piping the puff pastry; you can use a plain or star tip to fill the puff pastry with the cream)
• a flat surface such as a baking sheet or cake board/stand on which to assemble your piece montée
• some of the items you may want to use to decorate your piece montée include ribbons, Jordan almonds, fresh flowers, sugar cookie cut-outs, chocolates, etc.


For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; 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 remaining 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 and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

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.

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 (I piped 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.

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.

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

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.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

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.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
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.

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/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

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!

Additional Information: Here are some videos you may want to take a look at before you get started on your piece montée.

1) Martha Stewart Assembles a Croquembouche:

2) Assembling croquembouche using the interior of a cylinder:
3) Asembling Free-standing Croquembouche with Chocolate Glaze:
4) Assembling a Croquembouche with Toothpicks and Cone:

See this google images search of Croquembouche for inspiration:

Here’s a link to a dairy-free pate a choux and crème patisserie recipe:[/quote]


Basht said...

they look and sound amazing. I have to say, I'm jealous of everyone who gets to visit your kitchen. I'm going to have to try the herb with blue cheese one.

Ago said...

You are always amazing!!!
I love, above all, the savory version: rosemary and chives...this taste sound delicious...I'll try it next time!
Ago :-D

Cakelaw said...

Marvellous Audax - I desperately want to bite into the one filled with dulce de leche.

Renata said...

Audax, your creations always impress me! Your Pièces are amazingly exotic! They must taste so good!!! I loved the idea of the herbs in the pâte à choux pastry. I'll definitely try that! Congratulations!

Suz said...

Amazing! You never fail to surprise me with your inventive flavour combinations. I LOVE the savoury ones.

anchan said...

I agree, the savoury version is spectacular! As always, your creations are simply outstanding! Wow!

Have a great time while you are away - who will you be backing?!

shez said...

They all look like they would be delicious Audax :) I love that you did savoury ones too (and I must admit, I used your skewer-composition-trick to prop the roof of mine up).

Can't wait to see what you come up with next month!

Wolf said...

I still say that first one with the coffee cream looks like caramel instead.}:P

I'm impressed as per usual.}:P

Jane said...

You had me at your trial piece...

Lori said...

I am confused about the space time continuum, seriously. How come your post is May 26th and all of your commenters are dated the 27th. Yet today is the 26th. Oh, I am so confused. I recognize that it is tomorrow in Australia but how does that all pan out with google, etc.
Lost in NY

P.S. Your croquembouche is fantastic. I love how you tie in all different fruits and savories to your challenge.

Anonymous said...

Well done Audax with all the different flavours!

Ruth H. said...

I would never have thought of a savory croquembouch... Your creativity amazes me! I feel like I learn so much from you, I really appreciate all of the time and effort you put into thse challenges, and Ialways look forward to seeing where your imagination will take us!!

Karin said...

You friggin AMAZE me every dang month!!! Well done as usual!!!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You are SO imaginative Audax! I love the flavour choices you made. As always you raise the bar :)

shelley c. said...

What awesome flavor combinations you came up with on this one. I would not have thought to do a savory one, but am now brimming with ideas to try. :) Excellent work, as always!

Amanda said...

You are amazingly productive! The coffee cream filling of your first batch looks delicious.

chef_d said...

Yum! Will definitely try the savory ones next time :)

Anonymous said...

You are always so creative with your flavor combinations. My favorite version are the rosemary and chives profiteroles. One question: there is Eurovision song contest in AUSTRALIA? How's that possible?

Charlotte said...

I love how you always experiment with flavours! The quail eggs with salmon croquembouche is really making me hungry..

Deeva said...

How wonderful of a spread you have here!

Leslie Anne said...

I like that you made a savory piece montee. They both turned out lovely. I look forward to each new challenge to see what you do.

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz said...

A quick posting? yet still sensational creations. Love the one with prickly pears. I love that fruit!

silverrock said...

I am in awe, you are so creative with your flavor combinations that it literally blows my mind! Dragonfruit and prickly pear? Seafood and quail egg? Wow!! Great job on this month's challenge, keep up the awe-inspiring bakes ^_^

innBrooklyn said...

what a lot of exciting combinations: I particularly would love to try the savory piece - YUM!

Ria Mathew said...

My my! You are unstoppable! Loved all your versions! Great job!

Lauren said...

Beautiful and terribly unique! I love how you always reinvent the challenges. Audax, all of your versions look dreamy :).

Anonymous said...

I love that you made a savory version! Such a great idea, and definitely something I would like to try in the future.

tease-spoon of sugar said...

As always, your post is very inspiring and informative. Your enthusiasm makes my efforts feel less than adequate! : ) Great job! Look forward to seeing what you do for the June challenge.

Baking Addict said...

You never fail to amaze and this month is no exception. Love the savoury versions, will have to try that next time even though I am more of a sweet tooth :)

Saskia said...

Wow - so creative! I just love the savoury versions.

I'd love to try a prickly pear someday - even if just for the name!

Sue said...

Your puffs are perfectly puffed:) Great job on all the variety, Audax!

Barbara Bakes said...

Yours are the most creative fillings I've seen. Great job on this challenge as usual!

Anita said...

The chocolate coffee cream would have been perfect Audax. Great job!!

Mary said...

So many flavours! That is committment, three different flavours. I really like the last one with the strips of salmon, I think it would be nice for a dinner party.

Amanda said...

Savory croquembouche... You're out of control. The rosemary chive profiteroles look mouth-wateringly good.

Unknown said...

awesome job~!! so colorful and creative!

Unknown said...

good gracious! I want to come for dinner!

Ann said...

Wow, I never would have even thought of savoury! I loved this challenge!

Anonymous said...

The blue cheese version sounds delux- another well done challenge

Jenny said...

The coffee cream filling is calling my name, and I'm blown away by the visual of the quail and salmon version. Amazing work, as always!

Rachel said... the savoury ones especially.

Faery said...

Prickly pear and dragon fruit they are my favorite fruit, the croquembouche looks beautiful with the color of the fruit, The Deluxe seafood made me drool it looks sooo delicious. They all look tasty..Audax, how I'd like to be your neighbor first you are a beautiful person and second you cook like no other I love your creativity and the way you combine flavors, colors, everything.

Sarah said...

The savory versions are exceptionally brilliant. Your creativity is inspiring and I can't wait to make some savory puffs for the next party I attend requiring potluck treats. Great work!

UFRV said...

Wonderful, Audax, just wonderful :)

maybelle's mom said...

I am starting to think you are actually three people. Great job.

Kris Ngoei said...

Many breakthroughs in terms of flavor combination and presentation! Thumbs up, Audax!

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Angelica said...

I love your savory croquembouches, i wish i had time this month to try your salmon version but maybe next time! GREAT JOB ONCE AGAIN!

Sara said...

What a great variety! I especially love the coffee-chocolate looks super fantastic!!

Amy Lucille said...

Beautiful job Audax, I am really interested in the salmon puffs.

Ps, you rock!

Lisa said...

Aud..I'm at the point where I would fly to Oz just to visit you and eat everything you make..IF i had the $$$. As always, beautifully done and oh so many creative takes on it that most never would have thought of. You are amazing!

Rose said...

Beautifully done!! I love the idea of a savory version as I'm not into things quite that sweet ;) LOVE making pate choux, it's such a fun dough. Outstanding ideas! Hope you're well! xo

Jenny said...

I really love the idea of a savory croquembouche - the trick would be holding it together without caramel! Nice work, Audax. Can't believe you pulled off this many choux!

Eat4Fun said...

Terrific results and the play on the different flavors both savory and sweet. Always great to see where you DB whimsy takes you.

The Burmese Mom said...

Hello Audax! You are soooo creative as usual. Great job!

Charley C. said...

...and cheers back to you Audax. It's so great that Daring Bakers/Cooks are all over the world. I've never been to Sydney, but its top on my list.

Both versions of your croquembouche look fantastic.

Dana said...

I love the savory takes on croquembouche!

Vive la croquembouche!

Elk said...

Wow amazing those savoury croquembouches look fab, the smoked salmon one in particular...