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,
Charlotte

21 comments:

  1. That first version is amazing but the swan one is so so cute - lovely work on this challenge. You did a fabulous job that caramel decoration is outstanding. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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  2. How gorgeous - love the swans in particular.

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  3. Mmmm the lemon creme chantilly sounds delicious and all your versions are great. I do like the little swans so cute.

    I agree I liked the puffs without the toffee/caramel too sticky and sweet.

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  4. Lemon creme? Can I come over for dessert? Your swans are amazing - you really know your way around choux! Beautiful work on this challenge!!

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  5. Those swans are absolutely amazing! And your work with the caramel is truly impressive. Those are two wonderful croquembouches you made!!

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  6. Love both versions! They're awesome looking :)

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  7. Everything is just perfect... the choux, your tall Croquembouche, the swans are so cute and your lemon chantilly... Oh that must be delicious! I love everything lemon as well!
    Thank you for your lovely comment on my post!

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  8. Wow your croquembouches are so amazingly pretty, I love the swan one!! So creative hehe!

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  9. The swans are awesome! I empathize with your fear of caramel -- it's such a fine line between pliable caramel and solid candy.

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  10. The one with lemon chantilly sounds divine! And I simply love those cute little swans... so creative. Way to go on this month's challenge, you truly are a daring baker :)

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  11. Your first creation was beautiful and your swan was elegant and lovely. How could you possibly have eaten them? They're too pretty to eat.

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  12. I love what you did with this challenge - your caramel work looks amazing, and those swans are adorable!

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  13. Your croquembouche is so elegant, and the swans are very creative! It looks like you definitely mastered the caramel art!

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  14. Beautiful caramel designs! Your croquembouche look amazing, and I love the swans (even with a broken neck)!

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  15. Gorgeous is the word! Are u sure you aren't a pastry chef? I saw the swans in a pastry book by a US chef, and didn't even dare think of making them! WOOT! You did beautifully on the challenge!

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  16. Hi Charlotte! :-D
    I love your job...both big and little croquembouche are gorgeous...I love above all the little swans :-D
    Kisses
    Ago

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  17. WOw! The first one is amazing and huge! I love what you've done with the second one too - the swans and caramel disk. Congrats!!

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  18. The swans are LOVELY!!! I wish I was that ambitious!

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  19. Both versions are impressive in their own rights. The swans are especially cute.

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♥ Love to hear what you think of my post!:) Everyone's welcome to comment :) Bisou bisou ♥

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