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.
Dang it, y’all. Why do I have such a hard time listening to my kitchen instincts?
I briefly considered passing on this challenge because I’ve had an unbelievably stressful month, but I’ve wanted to make a croquembouche for practically forever. I made the pastry cream yesterday and am embarrassed to admit that it took me two attempts to get it right. The first time, I put the milk back on high heat when I was adding the egg/milk mixture and ended up with burned bits at the bottom of my saucepan. My whisk picked those right up, of course, so I ended up with a (not entirely pleasant) hint of caramel flavor and icky brown specks throughout my pastry cream. I took it easier on the heat the second time around and got perfect, delicious results.
My pate a choux looked pretty good after I added the third (of four) eggs, but I felt like I needed to follow the recipe to the letter since this was my first experience with this particular dough. Bad move. I read a post on the forums about someone’s dough oozing out of the pastry bag and refusing to hold much shape; this is exactly what happened to me. Consequently, I ended up with pastry discs instead of balls, which were too shallow to fill with the pastry cream.
Everything tasted good, though, so I decided to make lemonade out of lemons; here are my sandwich cookies a la piece montée.
I may have failed to pull out a piece montée (this time!), but I have to say: The modified version tastes amazing. The pastry is super light and the pastry cream is absolutely to die for. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the rest of the day without steadily eating it straight from the bowl.
I WILL try again, probably with one fewer egg in the pate a choux. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my delicious mistake. Thanks for a great challenge, Cat!