Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge - 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.

I have a confession to make - I really wanted to make spun sugar and a tower like all the great pictures I saw on the daring baker forums and blogs...but....the humidity here has been terrible, and the last time I attempted spun sugar, well, I still have the scar, and it didn't come out so great either...

This challenge was great fun, though. I got a little creative with the fillings, and they went over very well. I made the pastry creams at my house, then went over to my brothers and made the pastry over there with his fiance. We had a blast!

Sometimes, my family can be fairly traditional. Since I have been shocking them with some strange recipes, I decided to play nice, and make these with chocolate and vanilla bean filling. I had to throw in a little twist though - and made butterscotch pastry cream. Much to my surprise, the butterscotch were the most popular. They were fantastic. Not that the other ones weren't great too.

Since I had made 3 fillings, I doubled the pastry recipe, and after delivering to my other brother's house, I think I ended up with about 9 of these little bite size beauties. I don't think any of them lasted more than 12 hours.


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 (I used vanilla paste for vanilla bean crème)

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):
Add 1/3 c. cocoa powder and 1 T. coffee to your batter.

For Butterscotch Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Omit vanilla extract. Replace the 6 T. sugar with 4 T. brown sugar and 2 T. white sugar. Add 1 to 2 T. good scotch after removed from heat.

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.

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.


  1. Very nicely done!

  2. I am so impressed you made 3 different fillings! Your family must have been very happy.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thank you for your kind comments. I had a great time with the challenge!

  5. Mmm...that butterscotch pastry cream sounds so tasty! Great job on the challenge!

  6. Sounds delicious... well done!