Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge ~ Piece Montée

Well this was a piece alright. I thought it would be a piece of cake. But each stage although easy in theory had some issue with me!

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 dessert is quite popular now. I have seen some people actually have them as their wedding cakes. Cute concept… no knife needed I guess and one up from cupcakes.

But to put this little piece together was a piece of pain.

The crème patissiere was easy to do. I have done it before when I made the Cannoli for a previous DB Challenge. It is really a great crème which is not too sweet. This step was my first step. Okay, so it went pretty much without incident. Yippee!

Next I made the pastry or the Pate a Choux it is called. Strange method of making pastry in a sauce pan. Wonders never cease. This was pretty easy too.. the worse was incorporating the egg because my arms were killing me… too bad I couldn’t use a mixer…

I got my Pate a Choux in the oven and I feared I made them too big. Oh well… When they were ready I took them out of the oven and half of them were flatter then the other half. What’s up with that? I can’t explain it. Yet another step in something I thought was foolproof and it duped me. I chose not to redo but to work with it. This was two nights before this challenge was due and after doing 4 cakes this month I was tired of looking at my kitchen.

My next step was the caramel. That I thought I did well, until I tried to do a spun caramel effect. I read up on how to do it and I prepared my kitchen well. It SEEMED easy enough…just messy.. but none the less my spun sugar was just a mess in my kitchen. It was enough to serve the purpose though.

Now… lets put this bad boy Montée together. I ignored the fact that I may need a supporting structure inside. Especially since I don't think I did enough of the Pate a Choux. I chose to try glue the pieces together with the caramel glaze as the recipe states. My caramel hardened before I got the structure right. Tough luck. But I managed to put them together the best I could and used a few lollipop sticks to help support. I didn’t have any toothpicks as suggested.

I had so many plans for my Piece Montée. I was going to do some gumpaste roses and adorn them to it. Then sprinkle some dragees around the structure.( You all know I love me some dragees). I debated using the chocolate glaze the recipe suggested as well…but I just didn’t want it too complicated.

I experimented with my spun caramel. I have been wanting to do spun caramel for so long. I tried making a nest with it then assembled my Piece Montée in it. The Piece was so delicate it kept falling to pieces! Even with my so called lollipop support system and dried up caramel. It was funny. I was rushing to assemble and take some pictures…soon to find out that once the spun caramel got on the Piece Montée it starts to WILT :(

Anyway, lesson learned..and I had fun. I will make this again but maybe with coconut crème center and lemon glaze. The thing with these is that you can experiment with so many flavor combos… Raspberry crème with chocolate glaze, strawberry glaze with vanilla cream… oh my.


When life hands you wilted spun caramel, make a Piece Montée Margarita. :)


Chocolate Pastry Cream


1 1/4 cup milk, divided

2 tbsp cornstarch

3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

6 tbsp sugar

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 oz unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla


Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine 3/4 cup of milk with the sugar in a saucepan, bring to boil and 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 milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat, add in the chocolate and mix until smooth.

Whisk into pastry cream together with the butter and vanilla.

Pâte à Choux

Yield: about 28


¾ cup water

6 tbsp unsalted butter

¼ ts[ salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs


Pre-heat oven to 425◦F. 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. Pipe choux about 1 inch apart in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high and 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 until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Filling the choux

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.

Chocolate Glaze

Melt 8 oz of chopped semi-sweet chocolate in microwave or double boiler.

Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning.

Assembly of the Piece Montée:

Dip the top of each choux in your glaze, 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.


  1. Hi :)
    It looks like wonderful! I made the chocolate cream, too. It was great. Nice job :))



  2. The spun sugar reminded me of the Cinderella story haha, once it's done, you have a few moments to appreciate it. Your Croquembouche looks lovely! I'm glad you had fun... I did too!