Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - May 2010: Piece Montée

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.

Piece montée (French: mounted piece) can mean two things. First of, it can mean an ornamental pastry used as centerpiece for banquets and parties. It is made for merely decorative purposes. It is constructed out of blown sugar, pulled sugar, crystallized fruits, petit fours, marzipan, chocolate, etc. This type of piece montée reached the height of it's popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Piece montée can also refer to a classical French dessert called croquembouche (French: crisp in the mouth). Croquembouche is a conical shaped dessert made out of stacking cream puffs that has been filled with rich cream filling and dipped in caramel. It can then be decorated with spun sugar, nougatine, flowers, ribbons, etc. Croquembouche are traditionally served at weddings, baptisms and first communions.

In this challenge case, piece montée is pertaining to croquembouche. The recipes Cat provided for this challenge is really really good. The cream puffs 'puffs' really well, pastry cream is easy to follow, and the hard caramel is not prone to crystallize.

I have always loved making cream puffs. It's actually the first "complicated" dessert I made; I say complicated in the sense that it has different components. Although I have made them tons of times, I have never really made a croquembouche by myself. So that was the main challenge for me, to create a nice croquembouche. Oh, and face my fear with making caramel!

I have made two attempts for this challenge. The first one was filled with vanilla pastry cream and the second one was filled with lemon creme chantilly. Both are as equally as delicious, but I am a bit bias with the lemon creme chantilly simply because I love lemon flavoured anything...

With this challenge, I wanted to make a very elegant show piece. I'm not sure if was able to succeed on that one, but I did enjoy making it. Then I wanted to make a small cute version as well; that's when I thought of putting two swans on top of the croquembouche. I'm quite pleased with the second one except one of the swans broke it's neck.

Croquembouche is such a lovely show piece. Although I'm not really fond of eating them because I find it too sweet with all the caramel that's been used to 'glue' everything together.

Over all, this challenge was really fun. The most enjoyable part for me was the caramel part. I'm not so scared of making caramel as I was before anymore. It's not the burning bit that I have issues with; it's the anxiety I always have whether the caramel will come out right or will it be a disaster with the crystallization as I'm cooking it. I have finally found a good recipe.

Bisou bisou,

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lemon Walnut Torte

I do absolutely adore desserts with nuts and citrus! This dessert definitely made lemon and walnut shine perfectly. I encountered this dessert way back on my short stint in baking school; I instantly fell in love with it. I love the crunch of the walnuts whilst being tingled by the burst of lemon sunshine.

First, what is a torte? Torte is a German word that basically means cake, flan or tart. In baking terms, torte means a cake that is made by replacing all or some of the flour with ground nuts or bread crumbs. As for this dessert, the torte is basically meringue that is folded with chopped walnuts.

A stream of thick creamy lemon curd is then sandwiched in between the layers of walnut meringue discs. Just a thin layer of lemon curd is needed to give this dessert a lemony tang.

Walnuts and lemons are proven to be a wonderful flavour collaboration by this dessert. There is no need for other flavour components, so a simple whipped cream is a perfect finish for the Lemon Walnut Torte.  

Components used for this dessert treat:
 Bisou bisou,

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Charlotte Royale

Charlotte is a dessert created by an English chef in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III of England. Originally, charlotte is a warm dessert made by baking a fruit filling in a mold lined with buttered bread; it is then inverted out of its mold for service. Later on, chef Antoine Careme made a cold version of this dessert, which he called charlotte russe in honour of Russian Czar Alexander in the 19th century. Charlotte russe is lined with lady fingers instead of buttered bread and filled with bavarois instead of fruit filling. Now we know why there's warm and cold charlottes.
Anyway, enough of the history lecture... For this post, I made charlotte royale. This is also a creation of chef Antoine Careme. This is a dome-shaped cold charlotte lined with slices of jelly rolls. For my mold, I made use of a bowl; although it's not exactly dome-shaped, it served it's purpose.

For the components of my version of charlotte royale, you'll need:
  • the mandatory jelly roll; I used raspberry jam for the jelly part of the roll
  • a round sponge cake for the base (forgot to take a photo)
  • raspberry bavarois
  • banana bavarois
  • peanut butter feuillitine

Once you have all the components, it's time to assemble the charlotte royale!
  1. Line the whole of your mold with sliced jelly rolls.
  2. Pour the raspberry bavarois a little less than half way of the mold.
  3. Put the peanut butter feuillitine on top of the raspberry bavarois.
  4. Pour the banana bavarois on top of the feuillitine; make sure to leave enough space for the sponge base.
  5. Finish the assembly by placing a round sponge on top of the banana bavarois. For a cleaner finish, make sure the jelly roll is level with the round sponge. I just used kitchen scissors to cut off the excess rolls.
  6. Chill the charlotte until the bavarois is set, maybe 4 hours. Invert then serve! **usually the jelly rolls are then glazed with apricot jam for a glossy finish, but I prefer a matte finish so I didn't glaze :)

I really really love the look of charlotte royale. It looks so dainty, grand and elegant. I could imagine having this on a Victorian tea party setting. I even bet Marie Antoinette would have indulged on this tres magnifique creation.

The flavour profile of my charlotte royale is indeed succulent! Although my H didn't exactly like the addition of feuillitine because he doesn't like diverse texture on his desserts; I on the other hand, absolutely love the crunchy oomph the feuillitine gave in contrary to the velvety feel of the bavarois.

This is an absolute doll of a dessert! J'adore the look of charlotte royale so much! Oh, and a little FYI.. Charlotte isn't my real name; it's my blog name, and it is from this dessert where my blog persona was named after :)

Components used for this dessert treat:
Bisou bisou,

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


I've been thinking a lot about the ratatouille Remy made in the Pixar flick Ratatouille lately. So I've been doing a bit of research and these are some infos I've found:
  • Ratatouille is a popular vegetable stew in France.
  • It originated around the region of Provence and Nice.
  • It's key ingredients are tomatoes, aubergines/eggplants, courgettes/zucchinis, onions, bell peppers and different herbs.
  • The ratatouille dish on the film is actually confit byaldi (a recipe developed by a French chef, Michel Guerard, for his interpretation of the traditional dish).
  • The producer of the film consulted chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry as to how Remy should serve a ratatouille for a food critic.

With all my readings, I made my own little interpretation. First I made tomato sauce by sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, chopped parsley and bay leaf; simmer the sauce until most of the liquid evaporates. When that's done, I took out the bay leaf then just pureed everything. Then I added bell pepper that has been roasted, peeled and finely diced. Oh, of course season with the standard S&P.

Ok so the tomato sauce is done. Next, layer the tomato sauce with the aubergines and courgettes that has been thinly sliced starting with the sauce at the bottom and finishing with the fan of vegetables on top. Drizzle the fan of vegetables with olive oil and season with S&P. Cover the casserole and bake for 55 minutes in a 375 degrees F oven.
Et Voila!

So for dinner, we had a very healthy and delectable ratatouille. I served it with rice, shrimp and balsamic vinaigrette wine reduction. It's definitely a dish for keeps! :)

Bisou bisou,


Friday, 7 May 2010

Churros con Chocolate

I've never really tried churros from Spain, but Dulcinea (a restaurant in the Philippines) serves a really scrumptious one! I'm not so sure how authentic their churros are, but I really love snacking on them.

Churros are popularly served as breakfast/snack around Spain and other Latin countries. It's a fried pastry that is best eaten when freshly fried. Thick and rich hot chocolate compliments the crunch of the churros best. Sometimes churros are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, which I don't particularly like.

I made some mini churros recently, and it was to die for! Churros would normally have ridges on the sides, but mine didn't. I mean, I did pipe my churros with a star tip... but when I deep-fried them, the ridges just disappeared.

Even so, the churros were still satisfying. And of course, my churros won't have been complete without a dunk in the pot of luscious choco.

Bisou bisou,

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

A little FYI for you guys... I really don't like eating fresh fruits. I am a bit fussy when it comes to eating fruits. For some reason I hate the texture of them (except bananas). So for me to get my fruit fix, I have to juice them or make them into shakes or incorporate them in a dessert.

My H recently bought some strawberries, and they looked so scrumptious! Usually, I would have just dipped them in sugar then I would be fine eating them. But my baking bug told me to make a dessert out of them instead. So what's a good strawberry dessert? think think think... Strawberry shortcake! Yes, I've decided to make strawberry shortcake.

 A lot of strawberry shortcakes nowadays uses angel food cake instead of shortcake to sandwich the strawberries and whipped cream. Since I'm not so much a fan of angel food cake, I made the shortcake version.

Shortcakes looks almost like scones but texture wise more like a biscuits. Traditionally, shortcakes are filled with whipped cream and strawberries. But now it can be filled with any cream fillings and fruits; shortcakes can also be used as base for cheesecakes.

Shortcakes are so easy to whip up; it doesn't take much time to make one. So for my quick fix dessert to incorporate those luscious strawberries -- definitely two thumbs up! :)

Components used for this dessert treat: 

Bisou bisou,


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