I LOVED this challenge. It's been my favourite of all the Daring Baker's challenges I've completed so far. It was also the first time I have successfully achieved toffee without burning it and having to throw out the saucepan. AND I didn't burn my fingers. AND it was a lovely opportunity to socialise as we received a series of visitors all keen to see (and eat) my creation. AND I got to buy some beautiful edible flowers from the markets.
I started the recipe by making some choux pastry, however found the dough very eggy and runny. When I pulled the choux out of the oven they hadn't risen into perfect puffs but looked a little more like hamburger buns which, in search of perfection, I rejected. I do admit that they were great fillers at the end of the process when I needed to balance my croquembouche.
For the next batch of choux I used the simple choux recipe from my Masterchef cookbook which was very similar to the Daring Baker's recipe but with one less egg and no sugar. It puffed up beautifully so I was very happy.
The pastry cream recipe was the easiest and best tasting recipe I've ever tried. I made a half batch of vanilla cream and a half batch of chocolate cream. It was a great thickness for piping into the choux.
After I'd filled the choux it was time to make the toffee, and again I took the advice of my Masterchef cookbook which involved a caster sugar and liquid glucose toffee recipe. For a while I was worried it wouldn't work because for about 15 minutes it just looked like this:
Thankfully it turned into this:
The final steps were to fill up the croquembouche mold with the profiteroles, dipping them in a little more toffee as I went, before removing the mold and decorating the tower with spun sugar and flowers. I had no idea spun sugar would be so fun or so messy!
What amazed me was how easy the whole process was. I think I'd demonised it in my head a little after seeing the Zumbo croquembouche challenge on Masterchef last year. The sense of achievement at the end of the challenge was enormous, there was much shrieking and jumping with joy when the croquembouche came out of the mold intact and beautiful.
I'll leave you with the recipe for pastry cream because it really was perfect.
The Fabulous Pastry Cream Recipe (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch6 Tbsp.
(100 g.) sugar
1 large egg2 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 into ceramic or stainless steel bowl, cover with Glad Wrap touching the custard to prevent a skin forming, and refrigerate until cold.
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.