Thursday, May 27, 2010

So Happy to "Bee" a Daring Baker!

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat(Paris, France) 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. "This month’s challenge recipe is for a Piece Montée, which means literally “mounted piece.” You may know this dessert by another name – Croquembouche (“crunch in the mouth”). I have been fascinated by this dessert for a loooong time...the piece montée is the traditional wedding cake here in France. They are often served at baptisms and communions as well.

When this challenge was first announced I immediately thought of a beehive! Though my little beehive didn't turn out as the one in my dreams, I am still happy to "bee" a Daring Baker:) I have had a "thing" for bees, beehives and honeypots for over a decade, collecting a few things here and there and thought it would be fun to make my piece montee into a mini hive.

I had a lot of inspiration sitting around the house...

These are a few of my bee items.
My humble hive:) My first attempt at fondant bees...I just had to "wing" it:)

Each of these little cream puffs is filled with a creamy vanilla pudding(creme patissiere), which was so delicious! I loved it! (I would have been happy at that point to grab a spoon and go to it!)
I wanted to cover each puff(choux) with yellow tinted white chocolate, but couldn't get it to melt, so used a yellow royal icing instead. I used honey as the "glue" and to drizzle over the top, but it actually made a bit of a mess and didn't work that well as glue, especially at 11:00 p.m. last night. It was a little frustrating, but in the morning, through the camera lens, things looked a bit brighter than they had at midnight:) Thanks for a fun challenge, Cat!
I found this framed stitchery in an antique store and thought it would "bee" a good thought to leave with all of you!

Piece Montee


For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
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.

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

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

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.

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 (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 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. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!


  1. OMG! 5 little Munchkins and you still found time to make a croquembouche! Very impressive! Great job!

  2. STUNNING work, and so beautiful. Love your piece montee and the bees are utterly charming. Your collection of honey jars and the embroidery is enviable! WOW!! Great inspiration, and nice fondant work. O BTW, your munchkins are absolutely precious!!

  3. Cute as can be! Great job. Love the Be quote, too.

  4. SO cute! So glad you posted this... been wanting to make eclairs or something like it for a friend, and it's been years for me. Now I'll have to try! Thanks for sharing!

  5. this is so cute. I adore your version of this months challenge.

  6. Aww this is just darling Sue! I absolutely love the bee theme to your croquembouche! :D

  7. It's 'bee'utiful, Such a fun idea and I'm sure it tasted divine.

  8. You have quite a collection of bee items, they are lovely. These croqyembouche's are looking lovely themselves! No doubt they tasted divine with that yummy cream.

  9. Ah! The bees are too cute! That's the happiest Croquembouche I've ever seen. :)

  10. Love the bees!! so cute! great post and sense of humour :)

  11. Looks great! and delicious. I can't get over your bee collection. (No bee items in my house I'm allergic) they are all so cute, I'm so glad they don't buzz or sting :)

  12. Aw this made me smile so much hehe :)
    i love the little bees they are so cute, your croquembouche looks amazing as well.
    great job :D

  13. I don't think this could "bee" any more adorable! I love your little bee hive!

  14. WOW!! This looks amazing! And i love the cute little bees, such a really great detail. I love cream puffs, too and yours look wonderful. Hope you have a great weekend!

  15. Beautiful work! love the cute bees, looks amazing!

  16. This post just had me smiling. LOVE all the bee humor! :)


  17. The bees are so cute, make very beautiful unique croquembouche! So much fun, I have butterflies and you have bees.....

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  18. You made a Beeembouche..or a croqembee! I love it, so cute and perfectly executed! :)

  19. Can I "bee" anymore charmed by you than with this post :) I love it and your daring baker accomplishment. Makes me want to give it a whirl.

  20. Are any of the honey pots for sale?