Daring Bakers Make Croquembouche

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.

Changes I made to the recipe: oil instead of butter for the pate a choux and coconut milk for the milk in the pastry cream. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as it was written.

What I had wanted to do was to make this for Shavout, decorating the base with marzipan flowers. The croquembouche reminded me of my son’s school project of making Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai) with paper flowers at the base. Flowers, Har Sinai, dairy . . .  all Shavuot themes. But, I was worried that the croquembouche wouldn’t keep very well. I ended up making this the friday after Shavuot (and I made it pareve rather than dairy). Actually, it does keep nicely. So maybe this will be a Shavuot dessert for next year!

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28) (my yield was about 40 small puffs)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter (I used corn oil)
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.
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 used a 1/2″ 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. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

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 (you will need about two cups of pastry cream) using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

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.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk (I used coconut milk)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar (for a double batch–which you need to make–you really need 2/3 cup sugar, not 3/4 cup sugar)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter (I left this out)
1 Tsp. Vanilla

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 (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

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23 Responses to “Daring Bakers Make Croquembouche”

  1. Happy Cook Says:

    Looks so so good, I have never done sugar caramel so went with chocolate. I love the tread of caramel around the whole Croquembouch.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks! I actually thought chocolate would be harder because it takes longer to set up than caramel.

  2. yasmeen Says:

    Great,I’d love coconut milk in cream and definitely try with oil next time 😀

  3. chef_d Says:

    I was wondering how the pate a choux came out since you used oil instead of butter, but looking at the picture of the cream puffs, they look exactly like the ones made with butter. And the cream patissiere must have tasted so rich because of the coconut milk. Congratulations, it looks gorgeous!

  4. shoshana Says:

    This looks great! I didn’t get to the challenge this month but I love the idea of using the Croquembouch as har sinai for Shavout. Maybe next year! I’m glad to know that it came out well parve, thanks for trying it out that way.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks! I wish I had decorated it with marzipan flowers and served it on Shavuot. But, at least now I know it works perfectly made dairy-free.

  5. Jeanne Says:

    I was wondering how a dairy-free version would work out. Yours looks beautiful! Great job with the sugar art too!

  6. deeba Says:

    Well done indeed, and dairy free too. Oil seems to have worked brilliantly well. WOW!! Love your piece montee!

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella Says:

    Fantastic job there! And I really like your idea of marzipan flowers-perhaps for Shavout next year? 😀

  8. Michelle Says:

    Beautifully done!

  9. Rosa Says:

    Very well done! Your croquembouche is beautiful!



  10. Renata Says:

    Your puffs are perfect and I love the way you “caged” them with the spun sugar… Great job! Thank you for your lovely comment on my post.

  11. zoomyummy Says:

    Just wonderful! 🙂 Petra

  12. lisamichele Says:

    Your croquembouche is gorgeous and I love the idea of using coconut milk in lieu of whole milk. I always do that when making tapioca pudding…so why didn’t I think of using it in pastry cream? I’m drooling at the thought of how good it must have tasted! Beautiful job all around!

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