Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: 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.

This recipe is all about cream puffs. Kicked-up-a-notch cream puffs. Piled high in a gravity-defying mountain of cream puffs, glued together with sticky (then oh-so perfectly crunchy) caramel.

Sweet, sweet cream puffs. How do I love thee?

It all starts out as pate a choux being piped onto parchment paper. (Lucky me, I have a group of lovely friends that also like to bake. I enlisted their help taking on this month's challenge. We've also baked some other fantastic treats that I will share later.)

The magic little pastry puffs are cooled and then filled with heaven's gift to the pastry world, pastry cream.

Next comes the stacking, a scary proposition for a first timer.

A healthy drizzling of caramel and then it's time to stand back and admire. Ahhh....


Last but not least, dig in. Wish I had some pictures of the carnage to share with you.

Oh my, this was such a lovely challenge. I didn't think cream puffs could be improved upon, but the crunchy caramel did just that. Thanks so much to Cat for the challenge. I seriously loved everything about it!


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).

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!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe falls squarely in the "wouldn't-have-picked-this-one-on-my-own" category. Thankfully, Spike of spike.bakes would have, and in fact did, select the Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie.

I think I'll whip up a lifetime supply of these little coconut-shortbread crusts because I don't ever want to eat ice cream without one again. This crust was seriously awesome!

I guess you can tell that I didn't follow the recipe exactly. The filling was supposed to be chocolate ice cream blended with ripe banana (with sliced bananas on the bottom... you can kind of see mine, I think?), but I wasn't feeling the chocolate/banana ice cream combo for some reason. I decided to forgo that in favor of homemade cinnamon ice cream.

(Thank you David Lebovitz and your lovely book, The Perfect Scoop, for the fantastic ice cream recipe.)

And thank you Spike for choosing this recipe. You'll find the recipe on Spike's blog or in Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

I thoroughly enjoyed this and I'm glad I cut the recipe down to 1/4 batch and made it in two mini pie plates. I've already got enough junk in my trunk, thank you very much!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TWD: Apple-Apple Bread Pudding

Elizabeth of Cake or Death? decided on Apple-Apple Bread Pudding for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.

This dessert was like a cross between bread pudding and apple pie and it was darn tasty. I had to quickly pawn this off on the neighbors or it would have been breakfast, lunch, and dinner until the bottom of the pan was sadly reached.

I decided to make my own challah since I have no idea where to buy brioche or challah in my area. I used the recipe from "Baking with Julia" which is from baker Lauren Groveman who just happens to have the recipe posted on her site --> HERE. I made 1/2 recipe and didn't include the raisins, although that probably would have been good. The bread pudding used about half of the loaf. The rest of the loaf was hungrily snarfed down by my family, warm and heavy with butter.

OK, that's that. If you'd like to see the recipe, please visit Elizabeth's blog, or find yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Primrose Cake

Since I decorate cakes so seldom these days, I figure that when I do, it needs to be duly noted and documented and so forth.

My dear, sweet former neighbor and first ever real-live paying "customer" from way back in my cakin' days emailed me recently and asked if I was still "doing cakes" as she wanted something special for her daughter's First Communion. Um, I didn't really know... do I? or don't I? More importantly, do I even remember how? Could I produce a cake that I wouldn't be embarrassed to bestow on others?

I went back and forth in my mind, I hemmed and hawed, but then finally sure "sure I can!" all the while wondering if it was so.

I'm happy that it was a fairly simple design, with lots of pretty flowers to cover up the boo-boo's in my icing job (believe it or not, one of the hardest things to master is clean, smooth icing).

So anyway, there it is... duly noted and documented for all time, or at least as long as the Internet is alive and well, LOL.

The "ribbon" is made of fondant and the flowers... I used a primrose cutter and made them from gumpaste.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry Tart

Cristine of Cooking with Cristine picked Quick Classic Berry Tart for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.

I have to admit that I accidentally made this when I added pastry cream to the La Palette's Strawberry Tart many moons ago . What a happy mistake. It's been one of my favorite TWD treats of all time. (It was also one of my favorite "photo shoots"... back in the day when I actually put some effort into it, LOL.)

Anyway, this classic tart tasted just as good this time around. I made one mini tart using Dorie's sweet tart dough with nuts (I used pistachios), which I've come to prefer for it's wonderful light, crumbly (but not too crumbly) texture.

If you'd like to see the recipe, please visit Cristine's blog, or (preferably) get yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours", one of the best all around baking books EVAH!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

You won't find Burnt Sugar Ice Cream on the menu at your local ice cream truck.

Nope, not there.

Too bad. This ice cream has "best seller" written all over it.

I know. It doesn't look like much. Humble. And brown. But boy, does it ever taste delish! Perfectly caramelly with just a hint of "burnt".

Burnt in a good way. Burnt with the teeniest, tiniest hint of bitter to balance the sweetness.

Thanks so much to Becky of Project Domestication. Becky picked today's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.

OK, that's it, folks! If you'd like to try this, please check out Becky's blog or find a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".