When I read this on the forum of the Daring Bakers I thought "Yuhuu! A Croquembouche! My second DB Challenge is going to be even more exciting than the first one". That's because this challenge gave me an excuse to make a dessert that I always wanted to make but for which I never really found the right occasion. The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. More than the Croquembouche itself, the excitement for me was to try to make the pate a choux myself, because it’s the basis of marvelous French desserts such as Eclaires, Profiteroles, and many others. I really, really, really wanted to succeed in the pate a choux making, more than in the assemblage of the Croquembouche. Maybe it was because this was the spirit with which I started this challenge that things went they way they went…
The weekend after the challenge was posted I was already in front of the stoves with all the ingredients for the pate a choux, ready to start. The making of the Croquembouche consists of three steps. The first one is making the pate a choux. Here is the recipe that Cat provided us (one of the requirements of the challenge was to strictly follow this recipe):
I have to say: I’ve never been happier to be “forced” to stick to a recipe. I always have the tendency to change something, even a little something, but this recipe was simply perfect! Pate a choux is one of those recipes that I have always thought was way too complicated and refined for me…something only professionals or very gifted people could make. Instead, this part of the challenge was a great boost to my self-esteem. It came out perfect at the first try. I have found the perfect pate a choux recipe on the first attempt! What a blast.
The second step was to make the creme patissiere. Cat let us choose the flavor of the creme patissiere and I had no doubts: I have been having some strong cravings for coffee-flavored desserts lately so the idea of making a coffee cream came immediately to my mind.
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.
The third step, the “evil step” I would like to call it, is making the caramel glaze and assembling the whole thing