Daring Bakers - Ma [mini] pièce montée

Mini pièce montée

I have a thing for choux. I love everything made from choux pastry - savoury or sweet, filled or simply dusted with icing sugar, with a glaze or on its own. I've made choux before but never dared to think of a pièce montée... Unfortunately we didn't have any celebration this month, and a croquembouche is a bit too much for the two of us. So I made a mini pièce montée with a passionfruit vanilla filling + a chocolate glaze.

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.


Patê a Choux

makes 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.

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.

Passionfruit Vanilla 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
2 passionfruit

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.Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Add passionfruit pulp and gently fold. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced) Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
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, 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 piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.

My thoughts on the challenge:
- I made half a batch for the choux.
- My glaze is bittersweet chocolate as I adore it.
- The passionfruit cream was perfect. Although very subtle it added a nice tone to the combination.
- All in all a very satisfying challenge!

Check all the awesome versions at the Daring Kitchen.


Spring colours

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Winter was rigorous, Spring has been nonexistent around here. It's the middle of May and I'm yet to change my closet, moving winter coats and sweaters until the next cold season. Little dresses, light clothes or sandals are a far sight while temperatures refuse to go up and rain move to different latitudes. Today we have a glorious sun and the promise of a springy day... I'll let you know if my lighter clothes had the chance to see daylight or if I've been mislead by the beautiful sunshine outside. One perfect way to celebrate a sunny day is a colourful dessert. There's nothing easier to make than a panna cotta. C'mon Spring!

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis
Adapted slightly from Laura Zavan, Dolce, Marabout.

serves 4

200ml double cream
250ml whole milk
3 gelatine leaves
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
40g granulated sugar

Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft. Heat the double cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan. Add vanilla pod and seeds and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the pan. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Remove the bean (clean, dry and use into sugar for flavour and aroma).

Lightly oil the cups with a neutral-tasting oil. Pour the milk mixture and leave to cool. Place into the fridge for 2 hours, until set.

for the coulis:

200g strawberries, hulled and halved (reserve 2 or 3 smaller, prettier ones to serve)
25g caster sugar (or more, if your strawberries are on the tart side)
1 tbsp sweet white wine
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Bring the wine and sugar to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the strawberries and lemon zest (if using) and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Pass the sauce through a sieve into a bowl and discard (eat!) the fruit pulp.

Run a sharp knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold onto a serving plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with the reserved strawberries and extra blueberries (optional).


On broad beans and coriander flowers

Broad beans

It's that time of the year: broad beans are everywhere with their vibrant colour, soft texture and perfect flavour. If you're crazy about broad beans like I am, you sure understand all the fuss about them. The season is short! Of course if you dislike broad beans (like my mom) you won't really see all the joy that comes with a large bag and the promise of long hours shelling and peeling beans. No matter how unexciting the process is, I seem to never have enough -- creamy soups, crunchy salads or comfy stews, vegetarian or with a little bacon but always paired with the most perfect bouquet of aromatic herbs: garlic leaves, leek tops, mint and coriander flowers. Oh the joy!

Get a bowl and a spoon, I'm serving soup.

Creamy Broad Bean Soup with a Poached Egg

Creamy Broad Bean Soup with a Poached Egg

Serves 4-6

1,2Kg fresh broad beans (in the pod)
1 medium leek (or 2 small)
1 medium onion
2 tbsp olive oil
950ml vegetable stock
small bunch coriander (flowered, if you can get them)
few mint sprigs (optional)

4 fresh large eggs, organic
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Shell broad beans and remove the skin (yes, it's time consuming but necessary to get the velvety texture and bright green colour). Reserve. Make a bouquet with the leek top, coriander and mint. Tie the bunch together with kitchen twine. Coarsely chop the onion and leek's white part. Put olive oil in a large pot, add onion and leek and cook for 3 minutes, until soft. Add prepared broad beans and the bouquet. Pour the stock and cook, covered, for 10-12 minutes. Remove the herb bouquet. Using a hand blender, blend until creamy. Check seasoning. Add a little salt if necessary.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil. When the water boils, add the vinegar. Lower the water to a slow simmer. Crack the egg into a small bowl. Carefully pour the egg into the boiling water. Cook for about 3 minutes. Remove with a a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper kitchen towel. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Toast 4 slices of bread. Pour the soup into 4 large bowls. Put one poached egg and a toast in each one. Ground some black pepper on the egg. Add a dash of olive oil and serve.