Thursday, May 27, 2010

DB: Piece Montée, deconstructed

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 must apologize... I am under a ton of stress right now so I didn't make this the real Daring Baker's way. I did cream puffs and a separate batch of toffee that I crumbled into bits to sprinkle on top of the whipped cream/ice cream to serve.

My stress is due to a HUGE due date coming up - the final report for my Accounting designation. If I pass this (last year's pass rate was 70%), I will be done done done with school. I will be a full fledged accountant!

I really enjoyed making the choux pastry and wondered why I don't make it more often! It's one of those little things that brings a smile to my face as the choux pastry "magically" rises in the oven into a light, fluffy, hollow pouf that is ready to be filled with whatever you can dream up. I've seen them used in savory applications although I think being the sugar-addict I am, I'll stick to sweet fillings.

I filled these with a simple vanilla pastry cream and made a separate batch of toffee brittle (instead of the hard caramel sauce). I think I'm going to fill the extra puffs with vanilla ice cream and freeze them for anytime-treats. I used Martha Stewart's recipes for both the pastry and pastry cream.

Check out the DB blogroll for real awesome croquembouches, unlike my cheater version.

Choux Pastry
Makes 2 dozen | Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white if needed

1. Bring butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in flour. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from sides and a film forms on bottom of pan, about 3 minutes.

2. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium; add whole eggs, 1 at a time, until a soft peak forms when batter is touched with your finger. If peak does not form, lightly beat remaining egg white, and mix it into batter a little at a time until it does. Use immediately.

3. Using a large plain piping tip, pipe 2" circles of pastry onto parchment paper or silicone-lined baking sheet. They don't need to be spaced very far apart as they don't spread, they just puff! Freeze for at least 30 minutes or once frozen, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Bake from frozen at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Store air tight at room temperature. You can also freeze these after they are baked and then to serve later, bring to room temperature and re-crisp in the oven for a few minutes.

4. Slice them in half and fill with sweetened whipped cream or pastry cream (recipe follows).

Pastry Cream
Makes 1 1/2 cups | Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg yolks until smooth in a large bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium. Stirring constantly, gradually add milk in a slow, steady stream, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one third of the milk mixture into egg yolks (this step is called tempering, which keeps the yolks from curdling). Pour mixture into remaining milk mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

3. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Toffee Recipe from Recipezaar


Rambling Tart said...

Ohhh, they're so beautiful! :-) I'm smiling cuz these brought back lovely memories. :-) I haven't made these in AGES!!

Holly said...

Gorgeous! Of course they look so delish too:)

Joanne said...

Choux pastry is one thing that still scares me but you make it look so easy! These are perfect.

Jencrafted said...

You're killing me Tia! I want some of these now!! I haven't had cream puffs in a while. They looks too tempting and delicious, for sure. I've tried this pastry cream recipe; it's really good! Well done!!

tinyskillet said...

I was looking in my grandma's old Betty Crocker cookbook looking for a good cream puff recipe. I was going to put chicken salad in it. Yours are beautiful! I'll use this recipe!

Mary said...

I love cream puffs, and pastry cream is my favourite filling! I don't make them often enough either, so I need to do something about that! These look fantastic:)

Autumn @Good Eats Girl said...

They are so pretty! And they look SO yummy!

Helen said...

I love making choux pastry too. I always used to make it with my best friend when we were at school and make our own profiteroles. I so need to make this soon!!

Baking Addict said...

Looks great especially the toffee. Good luck with your report :)

Anonymous said...

Very nicely done! Love it!

Elle said...

Beautiful cream puffs and toffee. Good luck on the report. Amazingly wonderful that you did the challenge with that in front of you.

Cakebrain said...

gorgeous looking cream puffs! hope all goes well with your report!

Unknown said...

I should try these too, they do look easy enough so I wonder why I haven't gotten around to it? Good luck too! And the glass loaf pan, $5 at Ross. Can't beat that!

Anonymous said...

pate a choux rocks! Good luck with your exam!