Daring Bakers May Challenge: Croquembouche

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.

This month's challenge recipe is for a Piece Montée, which means literally "mounted piece." You may know this dessert by another name - Croquembouche ("crunch in the mouth"). The piece montée is the traditional wedding cake in France (how suitable - I have been to two weddings this month). The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons.

As I first saw the challenge I though "Oh no, they did it again. Something I would never ever think of to make myself because it looks so difficult!" A Croquembouche was the first thing I saw when I opened my first (and only) dessert cookbook - and which was the reason I bought it at all (because I loved that picture). I showed it to everybody who showed the slightest interest in that book, always saying "Isn't that beautiful?" Now I have to do it myself, so here we go again ;) Thanks for the challenge Cat, despite for the first batch of profiteroles which turned out to be little ufos (and my kitchen being a mess afterwards), it was a pleasure (but thats how we learn, right?).

Chocolate Coffee Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
  • 1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk + 50 ml
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 11/2 Tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 80 g chocolate, finely chopped
Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat. 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.Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Heat the milk into a bowl (or pan) and add the chocolate and the instant espresso powder. Continue whisking the cream (this is important - you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until it thickens and comes to a boil. Stir until completely dissolved. Remove the cream from heat and beat in the butter, vanilla and the chocolate-espresso-mix.

Dulce de leche Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)

  • 1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g Dulce de leche
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
Instructions as above, add the dulce the leche together with the butter and the vanilla.

Pate a Choux (profiteroles)
yields 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. It'll be done when a wooden spoon stands upright on it's own into the batter (my first try was to fluid ...). If not, you added the eggs too fast. Stir until it thickens.

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.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:

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.

Hard Caramel Glaze
  • 1 cup (225 g.) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
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.You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

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. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place).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. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Note: As I wanted to take the Croquembouche to a birthday party with me which was two days later (or better will be in two days at the 29th) the only chance to store it without falling apart was the freezer. So I wrapped it in cling film and hope it will survive - if not, there is still enough filling left to have another one.

Daring Cooks May Challenge: Enchiladas

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

Uff, Mexican food. I have bad memories about it - being in Norway and everyone eating that store-bougt Fajitas tasting like coming straight from the labaratory. But well, the Daring challenge recipes alway turn out to taste great so I gave it a try. The challenge was to make a home made enchilada sauce and (optional) tortillas. The recipe given was with green chiles and tomatillos and looked tempting, but I found only canned tomatillos offered in online stores with delivery times of 2 weeks and shipping charges twice the price of the tomatillos. So I decided for one of the recipes given as links - chocolate mole - from one of my favourite foodblogs. A long time ago I watched this movie about the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, in which the mole played a substantial role (concerning the food consumed) and ever since I wondered what this mole may be. Now the mystery of the famous Mexican mole was to be discovered by me!

Flour tortillas
  • 3 cups (375g) unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4-6 Tbsp. (60 g) vegetable shortening or lard
  • about 1 1/4 cups (200 ml) warm water
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add vegetable shortening or lard. Use a fork or a pastry cutter to cut in the shortening or just do it the old fashioned way and use your hands. Add warm water a little at a time until your dough is soft and not sticky. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Now you will pull off pieces of dough to form about 12 small dough balls.Let them rest for at least 10 minutes. Heat up the pan (I used my crepe pan) to medium to high heat.Now you can roll out the dough with your rolling pin, dust each ball with a little flour just before you roll them out. Roll them out fairly thin. Lay your tortilla on the hot pan. It takes just a few seconds to cook. Flip to the other side. When they are done it should have lots of nice brown speckles.

Chocolate Mole Sauce
adapted from David Lebovitz
  • 2 roasted chiles, skinned, seeds removed
  • 1/3 cup (25g) sliced almonds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup (45g) diced prunes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground cloves, dried oregano, powdered cumin, ground coriander, ground anise seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups of water (or more, as needed)
  • 1 oz (28g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • one can (400 g) cooked and peeled tomatoes
In a small skillet, sauté onion in vegetable oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add spices and herbs and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let them burn.In a blender, grind together the almonds, cooked onions, chiles, tomatoes, spices, prunes, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, and water. Puree until smooth. Melt the chocolate in the pan, add mole basis and the canned tomatoes and stir until completely combined, season again.

Note: The original recipe uses 5 dried chiles. I liked the idea of the roasted chiles of the recipe given with the challenge and used 4 roasted Habanero chiles which was way to much. The sauce turned out to be delicious but to spicy to eat for us. We had to drink a lot of milk to be able to eat it ... The hint of chocolate was titillating my palate, next time I may add more.

  • two boneless chicken breasts
  • oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 170 g cheddar, grated
Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts (I used my grill pan which took longer, about 10 minutes a side). Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check - it should sizzle immediately. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most). Drain on paper towels. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes - that is what I did.

Daring Bakers April Challlenge - British Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

I confess: This time I am too late. I made a pudding from my dessert book the 27th of the month, but never managed to take a picture.  After three more days of ignorance in my kitchen, the banana pudding with dulce the leche and macadamia nuts started to mold. I tried again today, this time a pudding with a crust, using apples, pistachios and berries (dried cranberries soaked in Contreau overnight and fresh raspberries) for the filling. After three hours of steaming, it was finished an hour ago. It was not bad, I guess we'll have the rest for dinner tomorrow. I am sorry I missed this one (never though I myself would steam pudding for hours after hearing horrible stories about christmas plum in school). It is a cold comfort, but I was daring a last.

left: the dough for the crust (I used vegetable shortening)
right: already filled (just the 'lid' is missing)

ready for steaming

Doesn't look that bad at all ... but is it done? Looks like - wanna have a slice?