If there’s one pastry from France that’s close to being a consensus for a wedding cake, it is the “piéce montée”. It’s also used for other celebrations, its main interest is that unlike american wedding cakes it’s actually good. When done by pros, it is this perfect conical shaped tower of cream puffs and caramel. It gets to be pretty high. It’s also called croquembouche or “croque en bouche” which can be literally translated by “crunches in the mouth”. Here is what it should look like
Don’t ask me why but I was dead set on trying it out. A friend had put this dessert back in my head a few months before and I had been thinking about since.
For a first try, I must say, this was goooood! but in place of a perfect conical tower, I ended up with something that was closer to a heap. This is due partly to the fact that I was making a small one for two, because my puffs were not all the same size and also because my presentation skills are sometimes challenged. Long story short, here is what I ended up with
Needless to say that for Smack, I am not in charge of the presentation and rely on the mold to stick to the Canelé shape.
- 9oz of water
- 6oz of flour
- a little less than an ounce of sugar
- 3oz of butter
- 4 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 7 egg yolks
- 3oz sugqr
- 1oz flour
- 4 tsp corn flour
- 500ml/18fl oz whole ,ilk
- 1 vanilla bean / vanilla extract
- icing’s sugar, for dusting
- 12oz of sugar
For the puffs:
In the water saucepan, add the salt, the sugar and the butter and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add, in one shot, all the flour while mixing. Put the saucepan on low fire and mix until the dough doesn’t attach to the side of the pan but be careful of not cooking or drying it.
Take it off the stove and one by one, add the eggs, leaving up to 4 minutes between each one and while mixing vigorously. Check the consistency of the dough. It should not be too liquid or too solid to allow it to rise when you bake it.
Pre-heat your oven at 410F. On parchment paper, using a spoon, make small balls of dough. Bake them for 25 minutes.
For the créme patissiére:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they turn a pale blonde colour.
- Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside.
- Place the milk and vanilla syrup (I prefer real vanilla – you need to cut it in two in the length, then scrape the seed and put the bean to infuse with the milk) in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 30 seconds.
- Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the pan. It is important to pour the hot milk onto the cold eggs before you return the mixture to the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Bring the mixture back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth.
- Pour the cream into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming.
To fill the puffs:
Cut a little slit in each puff and with fill with créme patissiére using a pastry bag.
Create a circle with parchment paper that will be used to position the cream puffs.
Prepare the caramel:
Put a third of the sugar in a saucepan, wet it lightly with water and put on high heat until golden.
Creating the piéce montée:
Dip cream puffs in caramel and create the base on the parchment paper circle. The caramel facing done to create a stable foundation.
Dip more cream puffs and start creating the different levels using the caramel to assemble to the tower.
Drizzle the caramel on the tower to create a nice crisp on all puffs.
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