03 June 2010

Piece Montee

I'm a Daring Baker! This is officially my first post for their challenges, and boy am I thrilled to be part of this. The May Daring Baker's challenge (yup I'm a couple days late, my bad) was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged us to make a piece montee, or croquembouche, based on the recipes from Peter Kump's Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. I first saw a croquembouche on some Food Network holiday special years ago, so at least I was familiar with this tower o' cream puffs. It's the first time I have heard it called a piece montee (one of these days I'm going to learn how to make the little accent marks over the e's). Piece montee literally means "mounted piece," which explains the stacking of creme filled puffs into this little cone shape. There are many ways to create this form - use an actual cone as a base, use toothpicks to keep them together, or... just stack them, like I did, using the chocolate as a glue. You can also use molten sugar to get that crunch (croquembouche = "crunch in the mouth"), but it was raining today and humidity and spun sugar don't really mesh well.

The croquembouche is made up of 3 components - the puffs (pate a choux), pastry creme filling, and the glaze. I followed the recipe for the choux and chocolate glaze exactly. I used the vanilla creme recipe and folded in some diced candied ginger. That addition was simply awesome if I do say so myself... it makes the filling's texture and flavor more interesting. I also happen to think vanilla and ginger are a match made in heaven, so I may be biased :-) I think I either didn't cook the choux long enough or added the egg too early because it was a little liquidier than I'd have liked (see next picture), but they puffed up nice and golden (see picture after that). After they cooled, I filled, glazed, then stacked them. Viola, piece montee!
One of these days I'd love to try it with the hard caramel glaze and maybe a different flavored filling, but it won't anytime soon. NoVA's summers are hot and very humid, so maybe I'll do it sometime for Christmas as a special occasion treat.

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