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May 27, 2010


I recently joined “The Daring Kitchen.” It’s a group of folks who each month try their hand at a recipe, either a cooking or baking recipe, and then blog about it. This is my first post participating in a Daring Bakers challenge. Each month a different member picks the recipe for the month. 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.


For the Choux Pastry, bring to a boil:

  • ¾ cup (175 ml.) water
    6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
    ¼ Tsp. salt
    1 Tbsp. sugar

Once the mixture is boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour. Return to the heat and briefly cook the dough until it begins to form a ball. I like at this point to put the dough into my stand mixer and put it on low for a minute to release most of the heat. Then, add in gradually 4 whole eggs, turning the mixer on high to incorporate each egg.

choux pastry

Each time I’ve made choux pastry, there comes to be a point where it looks like the egg just wont mix in with the dough. When this happens, turn that mixer up higher and beat that egg in! Eventually, the dough is silky and yellow. Ready to be piped out!

piping profiteroles

One recipe for me turned out two full baking sheets. Pop them in a hot 450 degree oven and let them cook 15 minutes or until puffed. Exchange the pans’ positions and reduce the oven to 325 and continue to bake until the puffs are completely cooked through, about 25 minutes.

fresh cream puffs

Then, I filled my lovely profiteroles with lightened vanilla pastry cream. By “lightened” I mean I cut the richness of the pastry cream with whipped cream as to give a less dense filling.

For the pastry cream, in a large bowl whisk together 1/4 Cup whole milk and 2 Tbsp. cornstarch. Add 1 whole egg and beat to incorporate, then add 2 egg yolks. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 Cup whole milk and 6 Tbsp. sugar and bring to a simmer.

custard to be boiled

Then, slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously as to not curdle the eggs, continue until completely incorporated. Return the mixture back to the saucepan, and turn the heat to medium. Whisk the mixture continuously until the mixture is thickened to custard consistency and the mix begins to boil away from the sides of the pot. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of butter. Transfer to a dish, cover the custard directly with cling wrap and refrigerate until cooled. At that point you can lighten the custard by folding in 1-2 Cups of fresh whipped cream.

pastry cream

Once you have your cooled filling, you can pierce each profiterole with a toothpick, and then pipe in filling to each puff.

filling cream puffs

Now, this is where it gets messy. I covered my entire kitchen table in tin foil in a desperate attempt to avoid getting scalding caramel all over my table. I practiced a few times how I was going to mount my croquembouche as I prepared the caramel.

For the caramel, mix together 1 Cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice until it assume the texture of sand. Then, put the sugar mix over medium heat, and do not stir or do anything to the sugar until the entire circle around the edge of the pot has turned into melted sugar. Once the edge has melted, stir the sugar mix, and then again leave it alone until it reaches a pretty amber color.

caramel corkscrews

Once the caramel was hot and ready, it was quick work putting together the croquembouche. I dipped each profiterole in the hot caramel and placed them in their positions on top of each other. Each little profiterole had a caramel bottom. Then, I tried my hand at spun sugar and sugar corkscrews. This basically consists of getting spoons and forks to form thin strands of sugar by moving it back and forth quickly… the mess wasn’t pretty, but it sure was fun!

caramel cream puff mountain

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 3:26 pm

    Congratulations on your first DB challenge. It looks amazing. Love the sugar corkscrews.

  2. May 29, 2010 8:15 am

    Well done on this challenge! I had a lot of fun as well!

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