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.
When I saw what this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was, I knew it was something that demanded a special occasion. Thankfully, May held one of those occasions. My Dad’s birthday!
I decided to make my croquembouche with a Spring theme by decorating it with little violets. I drizzled it with chocolate, as well as using chocolate as the “glue” for my tower. Finally, I veered from the traditional filling of pastry cream and filled them instead with my Dad’s favourite filling, Chantilly Cream (vanilla flavoured whipped cream).
The dessert was very well received. My daughter called it “the best thing I’ve ever made” and my Dad loved it. He’s a cream puff/chocolate/whipped cream kind of guy. And you know what? It wasn’t tough to make at all! I had a few nervous moments as I started construction of the tower, but once the chocolate began to set, it was easy going. I had planned to try the spun sugar decoration on the outside (which admittedly would have made this a lot tougher), but as it was a rainy and humid the day I made it, and I feared a melted mess. Next time!
I’ve included the recipe and instructions for the croquembouche shown here. If you’d like to try the original Daring Baker’s versions, you can find the complete directions of the Daring Kitchen site.
Summary: You can use any kind of flower for this. Just be sure you remove them before eating unless you are absolutely sure the flowers and/or leaves are edible :)
- PATE A CHOUX
- Will make about 36 puffs. You will use 25-30 to make the size of croquembouch I made, which will feed about 8 people (3 per person or so). You can fill any extra puffs and freeze for treats later.
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 12 Tbsp. (3/4 cup or 170 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 cups (250 grams.) all-purpose flour
- 8 large eggs
- Pre-heat oven to 425 ° F. 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.
- Piping: Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (Or pipe 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 to 1 1/2 inches wide (I made mine on the bigger side).
- 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.
- If desired, brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt) for a shiny, golden puff. My note: I found these didn’t “puff” as well with the egg wash, so I didn’t use it.
- Baking: Bake the choux at 425° F. until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in colour, about 10 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 350° F. and continue baking until well-coloured and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. My note: other recipes suggest poking a hole in the side of the puffs with a skewer so that the moisture can escape to avoid wet insides. I did that, just to be sure I didn’t have soggy puffs.
- Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
- CHOCOLATE GLAZE
- 8 oz. good quality semi-sweet chocolate
- Cut chocolate into pieces, place in a shallow, wide bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until melted and smooth.
- CHANTILLY CREAM
- 2 cups whipping cream (35%)
- 4 Tbsp. icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
- Combine all ingredients and whip until soft peaks.
- TO ASSEMBLE CROQUEMBOUCHE
- Have your melted chocolate and Chantilly Cream ready. Spoon Chantilly Cream into a piping bag, fitted with a large, plain tip. Fill puffs by poking a shallow hole in the bottom with the handle end of a knife (or a chopstick), then placing the piping tip into the hole and squeezing Chantilly Cream in until just filled (don’t over-fill). Continue to fill all the puffs.
- To start assembly, have your serving plate ready. Pick 5 puffs for the bottom layer, chosing ones that are roughly the same size and height. Dip the bottom of each one in the melted chocolate and position on the serving plate in a circle. The puffs should be touching each, forming a circle. For the second layer, dip and position 5 more puffs on top of the bottom layer, overlapping the bottom layer. Allow to sit a bit before proceeding (so that the chocolate sets up and your base is secure). Continue with the next couple of layers, using about 4 puffs on each these 2 layers. Add two more layers, using 3 puffs for each layer and finish with a single puff on the top. If your towers seems wobbly at any time, stop and let the chocolate set-up a bit before getting too high with it. (You can always re-microwave your chocolate dip if it’s not soft enough).
- When your tower is complete, use the remaining melted chocolate to drizzle from the top and down the sides of the tower. While chocolate is still wet, position flowers and leaves around the sides and at the bottom, using the melted chocolate as “glue” to keep them in place. For the top, I just pressed the bow into some chocolate that was on top of the top puff and placed the candle into the soft chocolate as well.
- Place tower into the refrigerator for a bit so that the chocolate sets up and your tower becomes stable. At that point, it’s quite portable as it’s pretty secured together.
- To serve, remove bow, flowers and leaves. Use tongs to remove puffs to a plate. I served them with whole, fresh strawberries as a garnish.
- Notes: You can bake the puffs ahead. I made mine in the morning but didn’t fill until later in the day. Once filled, the puffs shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours. You can refrigerate the filled puffs or croquembouche but I wouldn’t leave it in the fridge for too long, as the puffs might start to get soggy.
Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 3H
Number of servings (yield): 8