Daring Bakers May: Croquembouche, or Piece Montée

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 had never heard of a Croquembouche ("crunch in the mouth") before but when I started reading the recipe that hey, this is essentially a dessert made up of éclairs, and who doesn't love those? At least I do! I hand the mike to our host this month, Cat from Little Miss Cupcake:
The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Modern pastry chefs have taken to assembling this dessert in all manners of shapes and sizes, and you should feel free to express your creativity too!
As (almost) ususal we made this in the very last minute, so being elaborate and creative wasn't really an option. We went traditional: the choux were filled with vanilla pastry cream and we decorated our (not very high and neither cone nor pyramid shaped) piece montée with dark chocolate.

We made a whole batch which, in hindsight (*pats very full belly*) wasn't too smart - these things are rich, people! But oh so so delicious!

The whole thing wasn't very complicated at all - we were a bit worried when our choux was in the oven because they didn't seem to puff up at all at first, but that was an unfounded worry. We didn't have enough pastry cream to fill all the choux (good thing) so we will definitely try some savory experiments with those left over. We tried one filled with the sauce we had with dinner tonight (dinner was oven-poached char with lemon, dill and white wine, served with boiled potatoes, sugar snap peas, and a sauce made of sour cream, dill and red caviar) and it was really nice with a savory flavor as well. That sauce together with some smoked salmon would be really nice for a savory choux, especially if you flavor the dough with some herbs.

Thanks Cat for a cool challenge, we're really glad we made it - with two hours to spare before deadline!


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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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!


Daring Cooks May: Enchiladas

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.
Good Mexican food is hard to come by in Sweden. Sure, “Tex Mex” is extermely popular and is on the dinner tables of many Swedish families on Friday and Saturday evenings, but it's of course a “Swedified” version and, in my opinion, quite boring. I haven't found any good Mexican restaurants either, but we do have some Taco Bell-copies.

So, the alternative, as always, is to make it yourself. But then you run into problems at the grocery store. Corn tortillas? Yeah, maybe. Anaheim chilies? Errrr, no. Tomatillos? What's that? (Answer here.) As usual, our hosts were aware of the regional limitations of the global Daring Cooks, and provided us with some suggestions for substitutes. Tomatillos are apparently somewhat related to gooseberries. Fresh gooseberries are hard to come by during gooseberry season (unless you have a bush in you garden, or knows someone who does, your only bet is the local farmer's market. I have never seen gooseberries in a grocery store), and in May? Impossible!

So what's two Daring Cooks to do? Well, improvise of course!

We had of course great plans to make our own tortillas and all, but we didn't have time. We did, however, have time for a crazy chicken “grilling” experiment. The recipe says to use a gas grill or medium-hot charcoal, which we didn't have access to. Instead, we brushed the chicken breasts with Liquid Smoke (yay, artificial flavorings!), cooked them in the oven for about 20 minutes, and then Markus went over them with our kitchen torch (the kind you use for brulées). We don't know if the torch thing really did anything to the flavor, but it added some color and was so crazy we just had to do it!

And for the Anaheim peppers? Well, our guess was that they are mainly green and has a bit of a punch in them, so we opted for green bell peppers (for the color), regular red peppers (for the punch), and some jalapeño (for color and punch, turned out to be hard to peel them after roasting, so we ended up not using very much of it, which was probably for the better anyway.)

Oh, and since we were unable to get either tomatillos or gooseberries, we opted for gooseberry jam! Well, what's a daring cook to do?

So, here's the recipe for our gooseberry-pepper salsamathingy

450 g Green bell peppers
40 g Jalapeño
70 g Red chili
1 Onion
2 cloves of Garlic
1 tbsp Chicken stock concentrate
½ dl Water
250 g Gooseberry jam
1 tsp Dried oregano

Grill, peel and remove the seeds from the green bell peppers, the jalapeño and the red chili. Chop the onion and press the garlic. Mix it all up with a mixer, and stir in the chicken stock, water and seasoning. Taste on your own risk. Since we only had 250 g of Gooseberry jam, we halved the recipe at this time, using only half of the pepper mix.

To assemble the enchiladas, we used store brought corn tortillas, a mixture of Porte Salute, Cheddar and Parmesan cheese and the “grilled” chicken. We started with a thin layer of salsa, then added two layers of tortilla, salsa, chicken and cheese, and topped it all with a layer of tortilla, salsa and cheese.

The enchiladas were cooked for 15 minutes at 225°C, and served with guacamole and cold, Mexican beer – as is becoming of this kind of dish. We later found out that tomatillos are available in Sweden, but only as a prefabricated “Tomatillo & Green Chili Sauce”...

Thank you for a fun and tasty challenge! Make sure to visit the Daring Kitchen for the whole recipe and the other Daring Cooks' creations!