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.
Back to the process. There was one point when I was whisking the pastry cream where I felt that I had screwed things up because it was looking like it was starting to have chunks in it, like the eggs had solidified. I even gave up for a minute, set the whisk down and was ready to throw in the towel, but then I decided to keep stirring a bit. I’m glad I did because once it cooled in the fridge and I added the raspberry puree it turned out just perfect.
This was my first time making puff pastry from scratch. It was interesting to see how the dough would change as you added the eggs one by one, stirring between each addition. When first adding the egg the dough would be slimy and balled up, but as you stirred it in and the egg became absorbed, the consistency changed to that of mashed potatoes. Every time an egg was added the same thing happened. It was really quite fascinating. I did get a bit frustrated shaping the actual pastry since in my non-existent experience I was unsure of what to do to get the shape I wanted. They are supposed to be piped out of the pastry bag as round balls and you smoosh the little hat down with a wet finger. Mine not only had hats, but heads and bodies as well! I think it just added a bit of character to my little misshapen cream puffs, but that does not work to your advantage when you are looking for identical rounded balls to stack on top of each other.
Assembling the tower was not terribly difficult for me. Partly because it was a small tower in comparison to some of the croquembouche that are out there and also because I considered this my practice run. At this point I was still thinking that my final product would be raspberry filled cream puffs with a white chocolate glaze, but once I drizzled the white chocolate over the top I found it terribly plain looking. I knew I did not want a bunch of stuff sticking out of it like I had seen in some examples, and there was no way I was ready to do spun sugar, so I decided to add some dark chocolate drizzle to see if that livened it up a bit. Who can go wrong with dark chocolate? It not only livened up the appearance of the croquembouche, but it also livened up the flavor. I may still attempt another masterpiece before the month is over, but at this point I don’t think my husband and I can get away with eating 35 raspberry filled cream puffs, half drizzled in oodles of chocolate, in a three hour time period again, so I’ll have to come up with a different plan for its consumption. Enjoy!
If you would like the recipes for the pate a choux (puff pastries), crème patissiere (pastry cream), and the glazes, please email me. I followed the exact recipes, but I added a raspberry puree to the pastry cream once it had cooled and set up in fridge. The raspberry puree was made from frozen raspberries, thawed and then all the juices squeezed out through a cloth so there were no seeds. Sugar was then added to taste.