Procrastination has a new name – MEETA! I do not think I have ever done a Daring Bakers’ challenge this late in the three years I’ve been with the group. But boy was it worth it. If truth be told, I was going to give the challenge a pass this month.
There’s been plenty on my plate this month and although I did a real woot, when I saw the challenge at the beginning of the month, my heart dropped every day I saw come and go and I had not made the effort to make it.
On Monday I finally wrote to my sweetest Lis telling her that I was not going to make. Of course she understood, but she did tell me what an awesome recipe this was. As she drooled over the choux pastry recipe, I could not take it and went out to the grocery store and bought everything I needed. I was not going to miss this one!
I love choux pastry, éclairs, profiteroles are just some of my all time favorites. As a matter of fact when I saw the challenge posted over at the Daring Kitchen I knew straight away what flavors I would be doing.
Procrastination is not really my thing. I do shove certain tasks but never to the limit like I did this one. I made the pastry cream and choux pastry puffs yesterday and today I assembled and took these extremely scanty looking pictures. I even burnt my fingertips in the process. It’s difficult to type with blisters on your fingertips trust me.
The first time I made a croquembouche was way back at the pastry kitchen of the luxury hotel I was training at. Under the wings of a Swiss pastry chef I was taught how to put this incredible sweet showpiece together. At the end of the day I stood back and was exhilarated that I could actually complete such a masterpiece! It did look better than this one today. But that’s what you get when in a hurry.
The croqembouche also called the piece montée is made of three components:
- Pate a Choux
- Pastry cream
- Glaze of usually caramel but also can be made of chocolate
Ever since I saw the pistachio pastry cream over at Cenk’s Café Fernando I’ve been dying to make it. And this was the perfect moment. I very lightly tweaked it by adding some rosewater to give it another flavor dimension. The pistachio cream I used for the pastry cream was from a local supermarket. It contains luxurious California pistachios and is thick, smooth and creamy in consistency. I usually use it as a spread on a piece of baguette, but it was perfect for this pastry cream.
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.
Croquembouche with a Pistachio Rosewater Pastry Cream
Printable version of recipe here
Pistachio Pastry Cream
Adapted from Café Fernado’s recipe for pistachio éclairs
345 ml whole milk
4 egg yolks
50g granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
200g pistachio cream
2 teaspoons rosewater
Pate a Choux (Yield: 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
Hard Caramel Glaze
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pistachio Pastry Cream
- Prepare a large bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. Set aside.
- Bring milk to a rolling boil in a small saucepan.
- In a separate saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and rosewater.
- Whisking all the while begin pouring small amounts of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Start with a few tablespoons and then as the egg mixture begins to slowly take on the temperature of the milk begin pouring more of the milk. Keep whisking!
- Put the saucepan back on the heat and whisking continuously bring the mixture to a boil.
- Still whisking keep the mixture at a boil until it begins to thicken – approx. 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the pistachio cream.
- Using a rubber spatula scrape the pastry cream into a clean metal, then place the bowl into the ice water bath to cool.
- Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the cream to avoid a skin building on the top. Put in the refrigerator. The cream will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Pate a Choux
- 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 (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. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
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
- 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.
Assembly of the Croquembouche:
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 croqembouche, 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.
When you have finished the design of your croquembouche, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy!
Although I completed this just today there are not very many little choux puffs left. Soeren’s potential boy band (will tell you about this in another post – don’t let me forget) were over for a casting and it seemed like every time they went past the counter in the kitchen a few would disappear. All I was hearing was “ummm”! Well I have a few leftover for Tom when he gets back home tomorrow. I personally loved it. That wonderful caramel crunch, followed by the soft pastry and then the wonderful aromatic pistachio and rosewater pastry cream. The rosewater leaves a very subtle and elegant flavor, without overpowering the cream.
Thank you so much Cat for this extraordinary challenge, even if I did it very last minute I loved it.
Hope you all have a great weekend.
More Daring Bakers’ challenges from WFLH:
|Chocolate Éclairs||Danish Braid - Chocolate & Raspberries||Opera Cake|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First