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Piece Montée: Daring Bakers May 2010 Challenge

May 28, 2010

The May 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge was a Piece Montée, an assembled piece made up of profiteroles dipped in chocolate or caramel and is a traditional French wedding or holiday ‘cake.’  When it is made with caramel, it is also known as a Croquembouche, which means crunch in the mouth.  I was initially planning on making my version with chocolate, since the combo of chocolate with profiteroles is one of my favorite, but decided I wanted to try something different and try it with caramel…which would have been a great idea if wasn’t constantly raining and humid here in St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the humid weather made the caramel absorb the moisture and by the next day the profiteroles ended up soggy and no longer sticking together, but they were still delicious…so even though the cone fell apart, we were still more than happy to eat the remaining pastries.  Making the pate a choux and profiteroles was really fun and the best part, and I was amazed at how the choux batter incorporated egg after egg.  The caramel part at the end was tricky, since it started solidifying in the pan before I was done assembling…so I would recommend you work quickly at the end.  Next time I will probably dip the profiteroles in chocolate and would definitely wait till the dry wintertime before making it again.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat ofLittle 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.

One thing to keep in mind is that the pastry creme needs to chill in the fridge overnight, so make that the day before (it only takes about 10 minutes to make).  The puff pastry is also not very time consuming.  Filling the profiteroles and assembly takes a bit longer, but it’s really not too bad.


Pastry Creme: I made a half batch of Vanilla and a half batch of Chocolate

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

1) Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

2) Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

3) Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

4) Continue whisking (this is very very important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook…I lowered the heat and whisked vigorously to avoid clumps I got in my first batch) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

5) Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe)

Make another half batch of vanilla as above.

Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

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.

1) 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.

2) Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

3)Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

4) Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.  As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

5) It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

6) Piping: Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

7) 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.

8 ) Gently brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).  You want to only brush the top

9) Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

10) 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. (Thee can be stored in a airtight box overnight.)

This is what you want your choux to look like:This is what happens when you don’t press down the tips:


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. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

2) Make the 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. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke.

2) 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: Watch this Martha Stewart video first!

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.

2) Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

3) 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 (I meant to add more decoration to mine but was short on time…next time!)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 9:21 pm

    Iga these look sooo delicious!! Hope the hard work paid off 😉 missing you and STL…

  2. May 29, 2010 6:55 pm

    I can’t get over how impressive looking this is–WOW! way to go 🙂

    how’d the margarita pie turn out??

  3. May 31, 2010 1:41 am

    haha the puff without the smoothened top.. so funny 🙂

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