Thursday, May 27, 2010


DSCN0320 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

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.

Being a graduate of Peter Kump's Baking School, now The Institute of Culinary Education, definitely gave me an advantage in this month's challenge.

It was about a year ago that I had last made this recipe, still a new pastry student, in my still crisp uniform with my shiny new tools.

DSCN0317 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Croquembouche is the traditional wedding cake in France, a fact that I found somewhat facinating.  It was interesting to imagine how couples might personalize their own croquembouche to reflect their relationship.

Somehow, the creative possibilities seem a bit more limited than the extraordinary options available for wedding cakes in America.

But upon making this complicated dessert, I quickly realized achieving a visually appealing and delicious tasting croquembouche required much patience, perfection and attention to detail.

from Nick Malgieri, Institute of Culinary Education

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
1 cup  whole milk
2 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Pate a Choux
¾ cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

For the Hard Caramel Glaze
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Preparation Instructions
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
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.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For the Pate a Choux
Pre-heat oven to 425 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.

Bake the choux at 425 degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

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.

For the 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.

Once you are ready to assemble your croquembouche, carefully dip the top of each choux in your glaze and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet.  Place sliced almond on glaze, if desired.

Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

Decorate with spun sugar, if desired.



  1. Allie, That looks incredibly magnificent! The spun sugar, glaze,almonds all perfectly placed and looking really too good to eat. WOW!

  2. Joyce Philbrick( Grammie)May 31, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    You really have to be creative to pull that one off. A masterpiece for sure.

  3. Wow that looks amazing! Croquembouche always looks to beautiful to eat, but I bet it's tasty too!


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