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.
When I saw the challenge of this month I got right away this fantasy of a huge mountain of profiteroles with a very proud maker... me ;-) :-D
This is something (not the being proud, but making the croquembouche ;-) ) I always wanted to do but somehow never got to it, so Cat thank you very much for the absolutely great challenge! And by the way, the pic of your wedding Piece Montée is MORE than impressive!!
The mandatory part is making the paté a choux batter, making some height in your profiterole mountain and using the crème patisierre recipe, but with variations in flavour allowed.
Cat gave us the variations of vanilla, chocolate or cofffee, but I always wanted to try the caramel one Nigella made, so I just added the caramel part to the recipe Cat gave us. Fortunately it turned out great ;-)
The paté a choux isn't very difficult to make but it takes a bit of time and strength ;-) to fold in the eggs. At least I felt my biceps working very hard :-)
For the glaze to hold the piece together I used a different recipe, I took a caramel one but not just sugar with lemon juice but a bit more fancy :-) It makes a beautiful transparent glaze and when you have finished with building your (in my fantasy it stayed ;-) ) huge mountain of profiteroles, you can add some cream to it and you get this more than wonderful caramel/toffee sauce, absolutely delicious. I will give the recipe below.
Unfortunately I didn't have enough pastry cream to fill all the choux :S and couldn't make the mountain as high as a wanted. I took a normal whipped cream to fill the rest and build another small "hill" ;-) of croquembouche with whipped cream. Also because of this, my caramel glaze already hardened and it was impossible to rewarm it again (I tried almost everything) so in the end I just added the cream, made a sauce and glued the whipped cream profteroles with that one. It is not transparent and so beautifully looking as the other ones, but well, improvising is one of the main ingredients with baking ;-) :-D
Here comes the recipes:
Paté a Choux
175 ml of water
85 g of butter
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
125 g of all purpose flour
4 large eggs
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. 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, or just cut a piece or your paper or plastic pastry bag. Pipe the choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets, they should be 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). I have to confess I didn't do this, I just put them in the oven and they also turned out very nicely golden brown.
Bake the profiteroles 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.
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.
To make a caramel variation: take 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water, heat them both in a small pan and turn the heat high. Let it boil till the caramel has turned beautifully brown and colored ambor (watch out that it doesn't go too fast and because completely burned ;-) ). Add it directly to the pastry cream meanwhile you are whisking. Although I made a double batch of the pastry cream it still wasn't enough for my huge amount of profiteroles :-(
Here is the pic of the caramel pastry cream, with a greasefree paper (wet) on top in order to prevent it from forming a film, which as you can see, didn't work that great this time ;-) :-D
For the glaze I used the more difficult, but also delicious recipe. If you don't want this fuzz just take the simple caramel glaze (225 g of sugar, ½ teaspoon lemon juice)
Caramel/toffee sauce: for glueing the profiteroles and having a wonderful toffee sauce to go with them.
6 tablespoons of soft lightbrown sugar
4 tablespoons of sugar
100 g of butter
300 g of golden syrup
4 tablespoons of cream (you add this at the last part)
Put all the ingredients together (except for the cream) in a bowl and bring it to boil, let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes. Leave it to cool for a little bit meanwhile you are filling the profiteroles. Don't wait too long because when it hardens you are lost ;-)
Now comes the fun part:
To fill the profteroles, make a little hole in the bottom of the choux and use a pastry bag with a plain tip (filled with the caramel pastry cream of course ;-) ) and fill each of them. Just fill a couple of them and place them onto the plate in a cirle. When you have done a layer or two, just pour some of the glaze over the choux and they are glued for life ;-)
Make another layer and so on, and everytime pour some glaze over it. As you can see on my pic the first one (with caramel pastry cream) is very beautiful and transparent.
If you want to make your piece montée more fancier, just add whatever you like, sugared almounds, flowers, ribbons or chocolate dragees, the sky is the limit here :-)
As you can see on this pic, I used the caramel glaze with the cream, it is really, really delicious but not transparent. Still everyone liked it (me too ;-) ) and I now know that I have to make a very, very large bowl of this delicious caramel pastry cream for my next piece montée which is going to me huge, majestic and delicious ;-) :-D
Have fun everyone and remember with a piece montée the sky is the limit!!!