May 28, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge: Piece Montee

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.

I failed at the building the structure for a true Piece Montee. I even built a cone made out of carboard as the center, but couldn't pile the individual puffs on top of one another. I also didn't make the honey or chocolate glaze as "glue" because I was too tired and frustrated by the end of my third batch of pate a choux. 

Pate de Choux
(from Daring Baker)

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.
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.

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.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.

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.

For filling, I did green tea flavor. I basically added a teaspoon of mocha tea powder to the vanilla filling recipe here. I also took out the vanilla extract from the recipe.

I have made cream puffs many times before, but this time around I really had problem with the consistency of my pate a choux batter. I followed the recipe and added 4 eggs and ended up with really running batter. The same thing happened again the second time. So for the third time, after the third egg, I added slowly spoon by spoon the fourth egg. I think I added about 1/2 of the 4th egg, so the batter was much less runny.

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