Thursday, May 27, 2010

Piece Montée: May's Daring Baker Challenge

In just 6 days I will be taking my final comprehensive RN exam, and from there... who knows. With all the craziness of trying to cram 4years of nursing school knowledge into the past month would probably have driven me insane, were it not for my beloved baking. Yes, as I've said in previous posts, baking really helps me to de-stress. At first I was not really planning on partaking in this month's challenge, what with having to deal with all the stress of studying for the exam as well as job-searching (who knew it would be so difficult to find a job as a nurse!?!? not what I was told 4years ago).

But after thinking it over, I decided to do the baking thing because, I'm pretty sure there's a limit to the amount of time one can spend studying in a 24hour period before all of the information begins to drip out of one's brain and onto the floor (at which point it is essentially useless b/c there's no getting it back in there!). So, off I went into the kitchen... ready to whip up a storm.

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.

Piece Montée

Pastry Cream:

For Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tbs. cornstarch
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla

1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine remaining milk with 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 egg mixture, whisking constantly so that eggs do not begin to cook.

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

4. Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

- Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring 1/4cup (~50ml) milk to a boil in a small pan; rem
ove from heat and add in 3 ounces (~80g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

- Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ tsp instant espresso powder in 1 ½ tspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux
Yields ~28

- 3/4cup water
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- For 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. 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.

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

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

5. 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.

6. Piping: 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.

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. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

9. Baking: 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. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

11. Filling: When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly while you make your glaze.

12. Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:

- 8 ounces/200g finely chopped chocolate (semi-sweet is best)

Method: Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:

- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Method: 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. 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 Piece Montée:
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may still be hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. After building your piece montée, decorate the tower with drizzled glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. Have fun and enjoy!

Well, after all that baking... I should probably get back to studying. Wish me luck :)


Jessica said...

Thanks about my post and yours looks great! I love the caramel decoration on top. Very pretty. I love caramel that dark. I bet it tasted great. Great job and good luck with nursing school!

Kat said...

Good luck on your test!
You sure have the Daring Baker Spirit!

Anonymous said...

Nice job on the challenge! And good luck for your final exam!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I find that baking helps me de-stress too! Good luck on your test! You definately did a great job with the caramel :)

tease-spoon of sugar said...

Wow! Yours looks amazing, very impressive. Good luck on your final exam!

Suzler said...

Your croquembouche looks wonderful! I love the caramel. I know what you mean about feeling de-stressed - something like this is so absorbing, it really takes your mind off the other things.

Good luck with your exam!

Linda V said...

Wow pretty amazing piece montee when your in the middle of exams. Good luck, hope they go as well as your baking.

Mary said...

Best of luck with your exams! Your croquembouche looks fantastic, and I bet making and eating it were both stress busters! Lovely caramel decoration on top.

silverrock said...

Thanks all for the well-wishes on my exam... they're much appreciated ^_^

shaz said...

Good luck with the exams and job-hunting! Great piece-monte, that caramel decoration on top is so cool.

Renata said...

Wow! Looks like a flame on top! Great job! Good luck on your exam... and thanks for your lovely comment on my post!

ClumsyChemist said...

I hope the exams went well. Your challenge looks great!

Anonymous said...

Looks beautiful! Good luck with your exam.

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