Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge -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've certainly enjoyed my venture thus far as as a Daring Baker. I love going to the site on the day that the challenge is revealed. This month I was quiet surprised. I could not, nor can I now, even pronounce the name of the recipe to be made. You know us Southerners only speak southern. We just don't do so well with the precise accents of languages, such as French :) Oh, we can't help it, its just that special southern "twang" that is so easily recognized if we step outside of our born and bred southern regions. Anyways, despite my lack of pronunciation, I was very intrigued. Here are the key elements to create this beautiful tower:
Cream puff shells (also known as choux), Pastry cream and caramel.
I have always wanted to make cream puffs, and this was my chance. Well, my chance without too much guilt, since it was my challenge of the month:) I thought they were amazingly simple. Now, you should know, if you decide to make this, you can make the choux or cream puff shells a day in advance and freeze them. But, once the Piece Montee is assembled, it needs to be eaten that day. Preferably within a few hours. Cream puffs do not improve with flavor. Just to give you an idea of what to look for, here was my choux after piping it onto the baking sheets.
My point in showing you this is that its not all that tall. The "puffing" occurs during the baking time.
Here is the baked choux:

This tower of cream puffs known as a Piece Montee or Croquembouche is actually a traditional French wedding cake. I like the idea of this. Not so much frosting to mess up while decorating. I chose to decorate my Piece Montée with handmade gumpaste flowers.

  This was my first attempt with gumpaste, but I found it quite easy to make the flowers.
The filling on the cream puffs is a traditional french pastry cream also known as Vanilla Crème Patissiere. I used a Wilton Bismark Tip #230.

This will make your life much easier in the filling process, as the tip punctures the cream puff and fills, all at the same step. My honest opinion on the filing is that it tastes like vanilla pudding, but oh so good vanilla pudding. Like good, homemade southern vanilla pudding (I suppose you could call it a custard) that should be used to make the perfect banana pudding.
Though the Piece Montee requires several steps. None of the steps are overly complicated or require ingredients that cannot be easily obtained at your local grocery store. I highly recommend this for any special occasion. And I can absolutely see making this at Christmas time and using the cone-shape as a Christmas tree. Now, wouldn't that be cute! Enjoy!

Piece Montée
based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri

Crème Patissiere (Pastry Cream)

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

Pate a Choux (This is the dough for the cream puff shells)
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.

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.

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 (cream puffs) 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. Decorate as desired.


3 hungry tummies said...

Wow that is a piece of art! Amazing looking!

Tickled Red said...

You did a beautiful job!! I have always wanted to make one. Thanks for the tips. The girls probably loved it :)

Angie's Recipes said...

Looks very beautiful!

Rick said...

I'm so jealous about how pretty yours is!

Wic said...

it looks absolutely adorable not to forget delicious.
great job with the puffs and the flowers are a cute touch.

Pam said...

They look delicious! My MIL used to make these and they were great. I've never made them and will have to give it a try. Thanks for the recipe!

cookies and cups said...

yum, yum and did I say yum?
Your little flowers are precious!

Leslie Anne said...

This turned out beautiful! I like the combination of the star piped puffs with the flower decorations. Very pretty.

Megan said...

You did a great job and your puffs look perfect!

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shelley c. said...

You did a fantastic job - it is so artfully crafted and constructed. And great job with the gumpaste flowers, too - they add such a beautiful touch to the finished piece!!

Patty said...

Awesome job!!! Beautiful!!

Brad said...

Yum, these look so tasty!

Julie M. said...

Simply elegant! I love your gumpaste flowers as well. Great job on a beautiful croquembouche.

tease-spoon of sugar said...

Wow! Yours looks amazing! So pretty - and I love the flowers!

Deeba PAB said...

Whoa, take a look at that tower! Well done on the challenge. It's a piece of art! NICE!!

Krista said...

You rock! This is awesome. I've only made cream puffs a couple of times...when I taught high school Baking classes. And your gum paste flowers are so pretty! I love the idea of making this into a Christmas tree. Good work!

Bob West said...

Ummm .... I enjoyed visiting your blog. Very insightful! Hopefully, mine will be an encouragement to you.
God Bless, Bob West

♥peachkins♥ said...

This looks fantastic! I love those little flowers...

blowing peachkisses
The Peach Kitchen
peach and things

Tanja said...

Wow, your puffs are beautiful! Mine were huge and.. well, we ate them anyway. :D

Meeta K. Wolff said...

oh how totally elegant they look! gorgeous job on the challenge!

Kim said...

You did an absolutely wonderful job! It looks gorgeous, especially with those darling gumpaste flowers.
I bet your girls loved this:)

Brianna! said...

Oh my how excited I am to have come across your blog.
This post is GORGEOUS!!!

p.s. Im a new follower

anne maskell said...

I'm visiting with FFF, and I'm your newest drooling follower! Yummy,yummy,yummy!

Angie said...

Happy Friday!
Hopping over from the blog hop!
I can see that your blog is so opposite than mine! Following you can be dangerous to my waist line I think :) But I am going to anyways!
Every thing looks so good!

Ron Cooper said...

Love cream puffs!

Happy Memorial Day!

I’m following you now on Friendly Follow Friday! Please follow me back on my blog “Inspire!”

My latest inspirational postings are, “The Triumphant Heart,” “Pure Love,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Simple Gesture.”

Paula@One Mom's Corner of the World said...

This looks so cool! I'm visiting from Blog Hop Friday. I signed up to follow you.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I think you did a fantastic job with the challenge and I love your gum paste flowers. Kudos. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Cielo Azul Jewelry said...

I'm you newest follower=0) I would love it if you stopped by and followed me too! I'm have a fun giveaway on my jewelry.

Have a sparkly day=0)

Marie said...

that looks amazing. I am your newest follower from friday follows have a great weekend.

Unique Baby Gear Ideas said...

Oh my, I think I just gained a few pounds just by visiting. What beautiful deserts!

I follow your yummy blog now through GFF, please make sure to stop in and do the same for me?

AND I'm having a Vera Bradley purse giveaway in the next week or so and I hope that you will stop by and enter!

J. Claire

Missy said...

Beautiful! I guess I'll be making cream puffs soon! :) said...

Awesome.. looks great & I bet they were good! I love making Cream Puffs, they look hard but are pretty easy.

Cheryl@scrapaddict4sure said...

that looked complicated. But you pulled it off nicely
just stopping by from New Friend Friday

Unknown said...


New follower from New Friend Friday- please follow me back at

Happy Friday!!

Baking Addict said...

Wow what am amazing croquembouche. Love the flower detail

Unknown said...

Wow, first ever attempt! This is amazing! Gorgeous delicate croquembouche!

Velva said...

Wow, this is such an elegant dessert. Beautiful.

Julia said...

Stopping by from Friday Blog Hop. Your blog is making me drool... everything looks so yummy! I am now following. Hope you will stop by my blog and follow when you get a chance :) Have a great weekend!

Jaime said...

that's beautiful! great job

grace said...

ah, your handmade flowers alone are worth a round of applause! very nice. i still have no idea to pronounce the name of this creation, so i'll just go with tower of awesomeness. :)

UFRV said...

The flowers are so pretty, and the whole combination looks so elegant... congratulations :)

Unknown said...

You have a beautiful blog! Thanks for stopping by my place too..but you didn't enter my all-clad 12" pan give-away contest...which ends tomorrow at noon!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Your Piece Montee is so beautiful! I love the flower details on it :D

Renata said...

Cute decoration! Your puffs look great! Well done on this challenge!

Lucie said...

So cute! I still have a photo of me sitting next to my piece montee at my baptism when I was only a few months was much taller than me!!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I love this! I'd love to do something similar.