Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Daring Bakers' 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.

Oh no... i just realized i'm 5 days late for my daring bakers' Croquembouche post. AHHHHHHHHH, i can't believe it. You have no idea how devastated i'm feeling right now. I was so excited about this moths' challenge that i completed mine on May 2nd-- that's 1 day after the reveal date! UGHHHHH, *cries*, it's been a long time since i've been this dissapointed in myself, but i guess i should cut myself some slack since life has been more than hectic for the past week. I'll spare you guys the details but let's just say it involved a lot of studying, graduations, family reunions, food comas, hospitals, parties, and fist fights. Mmmhmm, now let your imaginations run wild! :P

So back to the my piece montée: I never had much luck making choux pastry; tried it many times but always ended up with dough that was too wet to stand. So this time i followed Cat's recipe EXACTLY and out came the most amazing puffs ever! I made around 40 miniature puffs and filled it with coffee pastry cream. I wanted to do more with the decorations on the Croquembouche but after many fail attempts with numerous items, i decided to keep it simple with spun sugar and a last-minute stapled ribbon. I can't wait till I finish my last exam this saturday because i'm dying to try these puffs again. Thank-you so much, Cat, for this awesome challenge. It's definitely one of my fav!

Pâte à Choux
(Yield: About 28)
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) water
  • 6 tablespoon. (85 g) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally [picture 1, 2].
  3. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely [picture 3].
  4. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan [picture 4].
  5. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
  6. Add 1 egg [picture 5]. The batter will appear loose and shiny [picture 6]. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
  7. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs [picture 7].
  8. 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 [picture 8]. 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.
  9. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
  10. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  11. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more [picture 9]. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
Pâte à Choux

Vanilla Crème Patissiere
(Half Batch)
  • 1 cup (225 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoon (100 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon. vanilla extract
  1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk [picture 1]. Set aside.
  2. In another pan, combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat [picture 2].
  3. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture [picture 3].
  4. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook [picture 4].
  5. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking [picture 5].
  6. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil [picture 6].
  7. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
  1. 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 [picture 1].
  2. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
  • 1 cup (225 g.) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand [picture 2].
  2. 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.
  3. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée:
  1. 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 [picture 3]. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up [picture 4].
  2. 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!


  1. Gorgeous! I love all the spun sugar! That's funny that you did it so early and then didn't get to post till now! That must be why I never do anything early. Blame it on the food comas!

  2. It's stunning! I'm so impressed with your spun sugar!

  3. Your Pièce Montée is so perfect! All of it... from the pâte à choux to the decoration with spun sugar. It looks like the spun sugar is the one responsible for holding the puffs together! Very useful step-by-step instructions as well!

  4. Thanks for your lovely comment on my post!

  5. I had long anticipated this post since I saw your post in the forum. Can't wait to tell you how beautiful your croquembouche is and actually it inspired me to add the spun sugar to mine. You rock!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  6. One of the best and most beautifully perfect croquembouches in this challenge! I saw it in the DK forum a few weeks back and just ogled it in awe! You are one talented chickie :) Everything you make turns out so beautiful and yummy looking :)

  7. That's gorgeous! I love your croquembouche! The cream puffs are so perfect! Excellent excellent job!

  8. Very cute Croquembouche with the sugar work and the little flower ribbon. At least the chaos didn't seem to effect your results. Your Croquembouche looks so serene sitting there nicely squared and decorated. :-)

  9. I love your simple but very elegant decoration. Well done!

  10. Wow! I am impressed. They just look amazing and could be easly use in tv commercial :)

  11. Girl, your croquembouche's the most beautiful one I've ever seen!!! how in the world do you manage to do everything sooooo perfectly perfect you perfectionest!!!!

  12. You're such an awesome talent in the kitchen. Seriously. With exams and everything else, you're still whipping up perfect choux puffs and tall towers of deliciousness. AWESOME! Good luck for your paper!!!

  13. I waited for your post because I loved your croquembouche soooo much when I saw it the Forums. Truely the best!

  14. I've made Pate a Choux so many times but never yet tried the croquembouche because the caramel look so hard but you're inspiring me to go make some when I get back to SEA :DD
    P.S. I'm working on a blog now too ;)

  15. Hi, Nice post! Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.



  16. It has been a bit of a crazy month and I seriously thought I was not going to get the Daring Baker’s Challenge done. But after craving cream puffs, and making them to go with my gold kiwi cream, I decided to go full steam ahead and do the challenge. 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. A piece montée/croquembouche is a French cake that is made up of cream puffs assembled into a tall cone shape. The cream puffs are filled with pastry cream, then dipped in caramel or chocolate. Piece montée means “mounted piece” in French and croquembouche comes from the French words croque en bouche which means “crunch in the mouth,” referring to the crackly crunch of the caramel that the cream puffs are dipped in. When I lived in Paris I loved stopping to stare at the elaborate croquembouche that were sometimes displayed in the bakery windows. They would be covered in spun sugar, chocololate, ribbon, etc. Oftentimes I’d see them made out of macarons. I had never made my own though, until this challenge.