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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.
Cat’s advice was this – “The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Modern pastry chefs have taken to assembling this dessert in all manners of shapes and sizes, and you should feel free to express your creativity too!”
I was thrilled with this month’s challenge as I have made many profiteroles over the years and really enjoy making and eating them. However I have only once attempted spun sugar. This was going to be fun but what occasion would I serve it at. As the month passed I decided that the occasion would be “my family”. What I mean is that I would make it just for my family to enjoy and eat the whole lot because usually I make cream puffs to take to a special occasion dinner or party. Yes, it is a little indulgent!
The only specification in the May challenge was that we were to use the choux pastry recipe provided.

Pate a Choux (Yield: 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.
Preparing batter:
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.
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
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.

I always cool my puffs in the switched off oven with the door ajar and if not using immediately store them in the freezer.

I made my favourite vanilla creme patissiere. For this quantity of choux 3 times the recipe is required. 
Choux puffs filled and waiting for the caramel to be ready.
Hard Caramel Glaze:

1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
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.

Five choux puffs were dipped in the caramel and and arranged on the plate.  The next two layers were of four puffs and then three and so on until all the puffs were used. This quantity made 28 puffs but I only used 27 because one puff dissappeared after my son sneakily entered the kitchen. Oh, well! 
The croquembouche was decorated with spun sugar and fragrant fresh flowers.
This was a really enjoyable challenge and within most baker’s capabilites. Many thanks to Cat for hosting the challenge. Be sure to check out Shaz, Pavithra, RenataLacerda and all the other Daring Bakers 

 for some more fantastic croquembouche!

I've been busy! Really busy! It's school fete time again.…
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