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.
Most of the time, when I've seen these towers of pastry in the United States, it has been during the holidays. Perhaps because the shape resembles a Christmas tree? Or because, like a Gingerbread House, it's an undertaking to gather all the parts of this and a great crowd-pleaser to present.
In my catering gigs, I've made several Croquembouche and I've made the puff pastry balls (Profiteroles) numerous times with different fillings.
Here's one with Rose Tea filling:
I was inspired to try a pastry cream with Matcha Green Tea by the amazingly chic Gail Baral, (a Tea Sommelier, friend and co-creator [with Robb Wain] for the online Tea Shop, ALGABAR.)
Along with her stylish online business, Gail presents unique, educational and contemporary Tea workshops at some of the best events and hotels in the US and beyond. If you ever have a chance to take part in one of her Teas or the opportunity to invite her to yours, DO!
There are three main parts to the Piece Montee: Pate a Choux (pastry puffs), Cream Filling (ie. pastry cream, mascarpone, or thickened and flavored whipping cream), and the Caramel sauce (used to keep the mounted pieces...well...mounted, and to make the spun sugar threads).
RECIPE: Pate a Choux as given for Daring Bakers
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.
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.
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.
Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
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.
2 Tbls. Cornstarch
2 Tbls. Matcha Green Tea Powder
6 Tbls. Sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbls. butter
1 tsp. Vanilla
1- Mix 1/4 cup milk with the cornstarch and 1 Tbls. of Matcha Powder.
2- In a saucepan, heat the rest of the milk, sugar and 1 Tbls. Matcha Powder
3- When the milk just begins to form bubbles around the edges, remove the pan from the heat.
4- In the bowl with the cornstarch mixture, add the egg and the egg yolks, whisk til smooth.
5- Pour just a bit of the warm milk into the egg mixture and whisk constantly so the eggs do not cook.
6- Then pour the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the warm milk and return to Med/High heat.
7- Now, using a spatula, or wooden spoon - stir constantly until the mixture is thick and begins to boil.
8- Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla and butter til smooth.
9- Place in a ceramic dish, cover with plastic wrap that you press onto the pastry cream.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.
RECIPE- CARAMEL (for mounting and spinning sugar)
1 cup sugar
2 squeezes of lemon juice
1 Tbls. Water
In a saucepan, bring all three ingredients to a slow simmer while stirring over Med. heat.
Using a pastry brush dipped in water, wash down the inside of the pan on occasion to avoid having the sugar crystallize.
When a boil is reached, stop stirring and allow to boil for about 5 minutes or until a slight caramel color appears. Remove from heat and stir while sugar cools.
PUTTING THE TOWER TOGETHER:
Using the filled cream puffs, carefully dip each one into the caramelized sugar as you build your tower.
Start with the round base and gradually move to the next layer, using less puffs as you go and moving inward to a cone shape.
As the sugar cools and becomes taffy-like, use a fork to pull strings up and drape around your tower of pastry puffs.
If at any time the sugar gets brittle or too hard to work with, just reheat and start again. It can be used over and over by reheating.