I was excited about last month's Daring Bakers challenge as it was something I actually wanted to make and my family and Joe's family were coming up for graduation so I actually had people to consume it.
And the challenge was... croquembouche! Which is French for... something, I'm sure. It goes like this: make a bunch of cream puffs. Painstakingly assemble cream puffs into pyramid shape with exceedingly hot caramel glue. Decorate with spun sugar, chocolate or the hearts of kittens.
Just checking to see if you were reading.
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.
Cream puffs have been something that I've been itching to make for awhile, just to say, "Ah yes, Margarette, I do make a delightful cream puff. Quite! Shall we do the jitter bug whilst wearing our monocles? What? Of course I will not wear a dress that shows my knees, I'm not a harlot like the hussy next door."
I found that making all the components was pretty easy. I'm not sure what I did to the pastry cream recipe we were given but mine didn't thicken at all and I ended up thickening it quite a bit after I put it in a pastry bag and found that my 'cream' was dribbling all over the floor. Probably my fault though and easily fixed.
Two things were harder than I imagined: filling the cream puffs and assembling the tower. I used the special little pipping tip my sister got me that is long and pointy, like an elephant shrew's nose.
Or like something else long and pointy. But I like elephant shrews. So I used the elephant shrew tip to stab the cream puff and fill it with the pastry cream, but I had trouble 1) simultaneously holding the cream puff while pipping the filling 2) telling when the cream puffs were full and 3) not piercing the entire cream puff or exploding the cream puff by trying to fit a cup of filling into the tablespoon sized puffs. It ended up being a lot easier when my dad helped by holding the cream puffs and telling me when the cream puffs felt full by when they expanded in his hand.
Assembling the tower was easy enough but assembling it to look like an actual pyramid and not a blob of cream puffs I put together with my eyes closed was harder. I think it would have looked better if I had made tons of teensy cream puffs but I'm lazy, what can I say. I decided to distract from my pyramid-blob by drizzling chocolate over it and decorating it with the hearts of kittens. I mean, flowers.
It tasted lovely though it still didn't get entirely consumed as we were busy and moving. Not sure I would have a reason to make the whole shebang again but I would definitely make cream puffs again.
I won't post the recipes for the entire process but I will post the choux paste recipe used to make the cream puffs because I liked it and it was quite easy.
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.
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.
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.
BUT WAIT, BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Joe and I will be traveling through Europe for the next two months and Joe will be blogging about our adventures here: http://adventuretimesintheoldworld.blogspot.com/
So I expect you all to take note and follow like the good minions that you are.