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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Piece Montée

My very first impression about this challenge was eagerness. I have seen too many beautiful Croquembouches on the net and magazines, all I can say is that I was waiting for the right event to trigger me into baking it. I needed that twitch to get it going, and this challenge has done just that.

Thanks to Cat for hosting this month’s challenge – Piece Montée. Piece Montée, which means literally “mounted piece” is even more well known as “Croquembouche”(crunch in the mouth). It has been a wonderful learning experience. Not to forget the burning experience whilst playing with caramel. Well, maybe one should get burnt before he or she could master the art of caramel thoroughly.

And thanks to Sue Sparks of Munchkin Munchies and Katie Yoon of Katie's Something Sweet who constantly amaze me with their decorated cookies. You guys should go and check out their blogs.... breathtaking! So for this challenge I tried to incorporate decorated butterfly cookies into my Croquembouche. I do hope the cookies will go well with the profiteroles.

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.

Next weekend will be an exciting weekend with a bazaar taking place near my residence. As T had suggested, we took a booth to sell cakes, like what we did a few months ago. Learning from our previous experience in dealing with the heat, we are going to prepare big containers filled with ice cubes to function as a emergency refrigerator, in case there are melting cakes again. And I will definitely avoid any cakes that will involve buttercream. It is totally heat disasterous. Instead, I am thinking of chocolate ganache or something more heat friendly. Will start baking this Friday as it is an official public holiday. With 2 free days I hope to do the baking well this time.

Will be right back with the coverage about the bazaar… For now enjoy Croquembouche. It is actually not as complicated as everyone would imagine. Give this glamorous dessert a try and rest assured that you might want one for your next birthday!


1. Vanilla Crème Patissiere

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.

2. 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.
- Piping: 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).
- Baking: 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.
- Filling: 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.

3. 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.

4. 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!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Special 08

Thanks to all of you who have sent your concerns regarding my and T’s safety. We are fine, spending a lot of time at home and continuously follow the news. In fact T has been resting at home since his employer felt it was safer for everyone to do so, don’t know until when - assumingly when there is a further notice. I myself have been working (and blogging) as normal.

Yesterday there was a curfew so all of us were allowed to leave the office at 4 pm. My Australian colleague who sat in the same room decided to leave straight away. And as he was walking out from the room I said "See you tomorrow!" as I always do. He replied "No, I will see you when I see you!" That is the true expression of the uncertainty we are facing these days. Curfew might go on until the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, I think both I and T need a little sanctuary to escape to in the midst of daily stress and disruptions. Especially now that we are mostly bound to be spending more time at home. Besides the fact that the political turmoil has further worsened and invaded into our used-to-be free and easy lifestyle and it is not safe to travel to areas that we used to go, we also deeply need a place that is natural, calm and peaceful for our eyes and mind in our own residence.

So we have purchased a rectangular cement receptable and transformed it into a mini artificial pond where fish can swim freely, lotus blooms to its fullest glory and the morning sunlight reflects on the the crystal clear water surface like a mirror. I and T can just sit at our balcony, in front of our pond enjoying the sanctuary and for that particular moment, the peace is back within us.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Step Back or Forward?

I had to bake something! Oh come on, think! It is a replacement for the Daring Cook's Challenge which I had called it off, most probably permanently... So how about something practical and yet sweet and buttery? Let's bake cupcakes, just love to decorate these mini cakes, one at a time.... So much fun, especially when it involves colored sugar...

Meanwhile, something surprising happened with my work at the office. For some budget reason (and of course the complain about the world economic crisis, oh come on..... I mean who doesn't make a fuss about it, right?) my employer had requested me to work either on a freelance basis or a 20% cut on my salary with one less working day per week. That happened last Friday so I told her I had to sleep on it and would talk to her again about it during this week.

I tried to understand the situation .... as most of the people in my situation would do, I bet. Is this a step back? Or a step forward (into unlimited possibilities)? Am I sad about it or relieved? Is it a misfortune or a blessing in disguise?

T showed his symphaty by saying that I should not be afraid because he would be my side on this. It was comforting and he surely had said it on the right time. So to get away from this matter (I couldn't really get away from it, frankly speaking, more like thinking lesser about options whenever the thoughts came to mind again and again), we picked up kararoke, or more like he picked it up and I listened to his singing.

Makes 13

- Cake flour > 250 grams
- Salt > 1 teaspoon
- Baking powder > 6 grams
- Salted butter – room temperature > 75 grams
- Granulated sugar > 270 grams
- Vanilla extract > 2 teaspoons
- Eggs > 3
- Evaporated milk > 265 ml
- Whipping cream > 250 ml
- Red colored sugar > 20 grams
- Grape - halve and deseed > 7

- Preheat oven to 180 C.
- Combine cake flour, salt and baking powder. Sift. Set aside.
- Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla extract with electric cake mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time and beat thoroughly.
- Set to low speed, fold in sifted flour mixture and evaporated milk, alternately a little bit at a time. Beat until smooth.

- Pour batter into cupcake moulds, about 80% full.
- Bake for 25 minutes or whilst inserting toothpick into cupcake, it comes out clean.
- Leave to cool.
- Beat whipping cream at high speed until soft peak.
- Fill into the piping bag and pipe on top of cupcakes as desired.
- Sprinkle with red colored sugar.
- Decorate with grape.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Dessert and The Dessert Magazine

Finally my dream came true. One of my 2009 posts, "Lychee Mousse Cake" is featured in the latest Dessert Magazine issue 14. Do flip through to page 68-69! Happy reading!

And guys, I am only leaving Daring Cook Challenge but still remain a Daring Baker... Baking with all of you has been so much fun and inspiring. I will keep it up and so looking forward to the next Daring Baker Challenge already :-)

Wednesday Very Special 07

I would like to share my happiness with you all today. Wow, so happened it is the "Wednesday Special" day! And the weather is pretty good today too! The news is one of my earlier posts "Lychee Mousse Cake" has appeared in Dessert Magazine issue 14 page 68-69! I have to admit that I knew about this like a month or so, but the news could not be shared not until the post has become a real article physically, right? So, here I am...

And the other thing is I am actually thinking about quitting Daring Cook Challenge (don't worry, I will remain a Daring Baker) and dedicate the time to do more baking or desserts. With a full-time job and a relationship, at first I think I could spare sufficient time for baking, cooking, styling, and photographing. But I realized I could only have a certain duration of time no matter how I wished I could have more... So if I must eliminate one less favorite activity of the four and concentrate more on the other three, maybe I will end up getting better baking results and at the same time become more productive. Don't you agree with me?

All in all, I have had a great one year of Daring Cook Challenge. I should thank all of you who have given me advice and guidance that have make it possible for me to survive the challenges. Kudos to all the DC Challenge hosts and Audax of Audax Artifex! To show my gratitudes, Let me share with you a small dessert that will complete your perfect dinner! Enjoy :-)

Makes 6 glasses

1. Vanilla Panacotta

- Hot water > 25 ml
- Gelatine powder > 6 grams
- Whipping cream > 525 ml
- Granulated sugar > 65 grams
- Vanilla essence > 1 tablespoon

- Dissolve gelatine powder in hot water. Set aside.
- Combine whipping cream, granulated sugar and vanilla essence in a saucepan. Heat moderately until sugar is fully melted. Add the dissolved gelatine and mix well.
- Remove saucepan from fire. Leave to just warm and strain cream mixture through a fine sieve into the prepared glasses. Chill for 2 hours or until just firm enough.

2. Peach Jelly

- Peach puree > 170 ml
- Lime juice > 2 teaspoons
- Gelatine powder > 6 grams
- Gooseberry – halve > 6

- Mix peach puree, lime juice and gelatine powder in a saucepan. Heat moderately until gelatine is dissolved.
- Set aside to just warm. Strain it through a fine sieve into top of panacotta. Garnish with 2 pieces of gooseberry halves into each glass.
- Chill for an hour.

3. Peach Coulis

- Peach puree > 120 ml
- Granulated sugar > 25 grams
- Gooseberries, kiwi fruits or other fruits > to decorate

- Heat peach puree and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Set aside to cool, strain into top of jelly layer, and chill.
- Decorate with fruits and serve.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday Special 06

It has been a terrific week with so many public holidays here in Bangkok. Despite the political turmoil, we still could find peace and happiness by getting away to the countryside. Managed to travel with T and his friends to the floating market and a beautiful clay workshop in Chachoengsao. Just in those moments, we forgot about all the chaos and enjoyed the trip to the fullest.

Meanwhile, the April's DMBLGIT host - the beautiful and talented Julia of Melanger Baking had sent me the award for winning the contest. So excited! Thanks to Julia, the judges Dominique of De vous à moi, El of Fresh, Giao of Kiss My Spatula and Mowie of Mowielicious. And Andrew of Spittoon!

It is another Wednesday Special. I would like to share a simple dish that mostly served on my dining table. T and I loved this easy-to-cook rice accompaniment and we hope you will too. And feel free to substitute any ingredient if you have your prefererred vegetable or meat in mind!

Serves 2

- Olive oil > 2 tablespoons
- Garlic - slice > 2 cloves
- Big prawns - remove head and feet > 4
- Sweet green peas > 100 grams
- Bean sprouts > 100 grams
- Ginkgo nuts > 25 grams
- Tomato - slice > 1
- Salt > 1/4 teaspoon
- Granulated sugar > 1 teaspoon
- Worchestershire sauce > 2 teaspoons
- Coriander or mint leaves > to granish

- Saute garlic in olive oil until golden brown and fragrant.
- Fold in prawns and fry for a while.
- Add green peas, bean spouts, ginkgo nuts, and tomatoes, followed with the salt, sugar and worchestershire sauce. Stir occasionally until cooked.
- Place in the serving plate. Garnish with coriander or mint leaves.
- Serve.