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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on May 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , croquenbouche,   

    Daring Bakers’ 29th Challenge: Pièce montée (Croquenbouche) 

    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. A nice dessert, components I had done before. Still, I always welcome a chance to get a technique, in this case choux paste, perfected. I think I can do that now. My piping still needs work, but I was happy with the results. I used a vanilla/peppermint pastry cream.


    Equipment required:
    • several baking sheets
    • parchment paper
    • a whisk
    • a pastry brush (for the egg wash)
    • a pastry bag and tip (a plain tip or no tip is best for piping the puff pastry; you can use a plain or star tip to fill the puff pastry with the cream)
    • a flat surface such as a baking sheet or cake board/stand on which to assemble your piece montée
    • some of the items you may want to use to decorate your piece montée include ribbons, Jordan almonds, fresh flowers, sugar cookie cut-outs, chocolates, etc.


    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.

    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.


    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!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on May 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chile, enchiladas   

    Daring Cooks 13th Challenge: Stacked green chile and grilled chicken enchiladas 

    Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on http://www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh. Grilled chicken, melted cheese and spicy salsa, how can you go wrong. I was on this challenge in no time. Hun did the grilling and I assembled the salsa and final dish. We couldn’t find any Anaheim chiles, so used Poblanos instead, spiked with a few jalapenos.  It packed a kick in the end, but what’s Tex-Mex without some heat. Great recipe!

    Stacked green chile and grilled chicken enchiladas

    Preparation time: Below are the approximate prep times for each step of the process. The sauce is the most time-intensive, but it can be made ahead and several of the steps can be done simultaneously. See additional information below for more preparation times and tips.

    Roasting/preparing chiles and tomatillos: 30 – 60 min.
    Assembling/simmering enchilada sauce: 30 min.
    Grill chicken: 10 – 15 min.
    Assembly/ baking enchilada stacks: 30 min.

    Equipment required:
    • Grill, broiler, or gas stove to roast Anaheim chiles
    • Grill, broiler, or saucepan to cook tomatillos
    • Bowl and plastic wrap to cover the bowl or a paper bag to steam Anaheim chiles
    • Blender or food processor to puree tomatillos (or very finely chop)
    • Small frying pan (for frying tortillas)
    • Baking dish – either one large (10×15 inch) or individual gratin dishes
    • Cheese grater
    • Knives for cutting chicken and roasted chiles
    • Spoons for stirring sauce
    • Tongs are helpful for turning chiles as they roast, chicken as it grills and tortillas as they fry


    1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
    7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams – peel, remove stems
    4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
    1 clove Garlic, minced
    2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    ½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
    ¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
    2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
    Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
    2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
    3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
    Kosher salt and pepper
    12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
    6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
    Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional


    Roasting Fresh Chiles

    1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
    2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
    3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
    4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.
    5. DO NOT RINSE!

    Green Chile Sauce

    1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
    2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
    3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
    4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
    5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
    6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

    Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

    1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
    3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
    4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
    5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
    6. Drain on paper towels.
    7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
    8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
    9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
    10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
    11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
    12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
    13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
    14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

    • Olive 5:30 pm on May 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I love this month’s DC challenge too.. your enchiladas looks so yummy! 🙂

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