Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge - Piece Montee or Croquembouche

For a few years I have noticed on a number of the food blogs I follow the Daring Bakers. They set a challenge each month and the members all make the same item, with significantly varing and wonderful results to post on their blogs.

How wonderful I thought to myself, this will make me grow as baker and challenge me to try things I would never think of. I am a Daring Baker I decided to myself, actually a long time ago and last month I finally signed up.

Except I was pretty busy this month and thought I signed up after the cutoff date and wouldn't have to start until next month........Eeeek I was wrong!!!

Oh well I guess it's called a challenge for a reason.

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.

The recipe provided by Little Miss Cupcake was easy to follow and worked well, so the actual baking of the puffs and making of the cream was relatively easy.

So my first try I flavoured the cream with rosewater and it was a pretty delicious flavor combination.

I had just baked a batch of macarons and decided to try and include them in the decorations so here is my first attempt play around. I used chocolate instead of toffee as I had a 20 month old holding onto my legs during the construction stage and didn't feel comfortable with all that hot sugar flying around.

So here are a couple of variations on my first attempt.

See I made a funny little disk out of the choux pastry to help support it as I didn't want to use the toffee.

Then I decided to get serious and use toffee. Not a big fan of toffee these days, although as a kid I can remember my mum making it for fair sweet stalls at the school and I loved it then.

My dislike of the toffee might have something to do with the fact that I had croquembouche for my wedding cake and I still remember now trying to get one of those hard toffee balls out of the cake. 

I stuck the puffs together using just a little toffee on the bottom of each. I was making some sugar 'Halos' for another project which I posted a couple of days ago so I made some larger ones to pop over the top of this project. I also attempted spun sugar which actually worked but I thought it looked a bit messy when applied.

I took a couple of quick photos outside, it was still only 6ish in the morning and it's coming into winter here so still not much light. All was going pretty good. I planned to take the real photos after school drop off.

Then disaster in the form of my 21 month old son. He ate the top before I got any great shots

Oh well, he did really enjoy it.

Overall the project was a bit of fun, and something I wouldn't have chosen to do myself. The choux pastry and cream are reasonably easy to make and taste great on their own or with a chocolate sauce. I don't like toffee so I wouldn't go to the trouble to built a structure again unless it was for a specific reason, but it was a great challenge. Thanks Little Miss Cupcake :)

Vanilla Crème Patissiere 
 2 cup (450 ml.) whole milk
 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
200 g. sugar
2 large egg
 4 large egg yolks
 4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp Rosewater
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 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 and rosewater.

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

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. 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 (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.
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.
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.

Toffee for Halos
Instructions for the toffee I used are in my Halo Cupcakes post click here for the link


Group the puffs and do a trial run at arranging them, use the larger puffs at the bottom. Once are happy with how you will be arranging the puffs, pop the bottoms into the toffee and working quickly stack the puffs. Decorate with spun toffee, halo's or ribbon and flowers.


  1. OMG... I know its only breakfast time.... but they look so delicious... and I just drool over anything with rosewater!!!

    wow... if this is youer first attempt.... OMG... you are REALLY GOOD!

    mmmm... YUM!!

    elizabeth xx

  2. Who could resist? I wouldn't blame your son! Your Pièces look so lovely! I'm sure they were delicious!

  3. Congratulations on completing your very first DBC :) It's so daunting - I remember having to do a crazy multiple layered cake for my first!

    And well done on finishing it so early (and doing multiple versions too) - they look gorgeous!

  4. Fantastic job and what a wonderful first entry into Daring Bakers :) I know what you mean about toffee, I wasn't the biggest fan of it either until I got the hang of it. I love hte version with the pink macarons too!

  5. So pretty, and love the macarons too!

  6. good job with your first DB challenge! I love how you incorporated macarons in your croquembouche!:)

  7. Lovely!! Congrats on a great first challenge!

  8. Enhorabuena (congrats in Spanish) with your first DB challenge, it looks really beautiful and tasty!!
    Un abrazo (regards) from Spain!!

  9. I love the photo with the macarons - it is such a happy picture. Funny your son scooped up the top piece - who can blame him?

  10. Wow! The tower you made with the french macaroons looks too cute to eat. And I find it adorable that your son couldn't resist eating the top of your piece montée... but seriously, you can't blame a kid for wanting to have at that beautiful dessert you made :P Way to go on this month's challenge and keep up the great bakes!

  11. I love how you played with the choux to make the woven disk! Ad it is really nice to know that your 21 month old has such great taste! Beautiful job on the challenge, and welcome to the Kitchen!

  12. Congrats on your first challenge!! I love the halo - what beautiful decorations :)

  13. Welcome to the Daring Bakers Challenge - AWESOME job on your first challenge! I can't blame your son for his impatience - that looked absolutely scrumptious. :)

  14. Congratulations on your first DB challenge. You did an awesome job. Love the sugar halo and the macarons. That disc is so creative. I'd probably be worse than your son and eat more than just one ;)

  15. Babies know what's good :) Beautiful challenge you made, and I loved the loops, will have to look down for that other project you used them for :)