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.
Life has gotten in the way of my participation in Daring Baker's challenges recently, but it was impossible to pass up this challenge. I've made choux pastry in the past with my eclair notdogs, but I've never assembled an entire croquembouche. And I always love to try something new. Even though...*whispers* I don't like them. Don't hate me! I've just always found choux pastry a little too close to cardboard in texture and flavour, and the combination of it with the hard , crunchy toffee doesn't appeal to me. Perhaps it's just because I experienced too many bad croquembouches at birthday parties, when I all I wanted was a big piece of cake.
Raspberry & Chocolate Cupcake Croquembouche
(based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri)
For the pâte à choux (Yield: About 28, or 40 smaller ones)
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.
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).
For the crème patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
For the chocolate pastry cream: 1/4 cup milk + 80g semisweet chocolate
For the raspberry pastry cream: 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries - pureed and strained
If doing chocolate pastry cream: bring milk to the boil in a small pan, remove from the heat and stir in chocolate until completely melted and combined. Set aside to cool.
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 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.
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 and beat in the butter, vanilla, and chocolate mixture (if making chocolate pastry cream) or raspberry puree (if making raspberry pastry cream). Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
For the hard caramel glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice