Thursday, May 27, 2010

DB May Challenge: Piece Montée

Let me start by saying, if anyone can actually pronounce this for me properly it would be greatly appreciated :)

Every time I talked about this challenge with MM I think I pronounced it a different way. Piece Montée literally means 'mounted piece' and is traditionally a pyramid or cone shaped construction of cream filled puff pastries, dipped in chocolate and decorated with caramel. Don't let the construction intimidate you though.. it's really not as difficult as you may think!

I was so intrigued and excited when I first took a peek at May's Daring Baker's Challenge. I had seen this creation a few times on the various cooking shows I often find myself watching, but always assumed it must be an extremely time consuming and difficult task. However, I was pleasantly surprised when everything started coming together so easily earlier this week in the kitchen.
Although the assembly of the piece may seem a little time consuming, the components of the Piece Montée are relatively simple, not to mention delicious. I never knew puff pastries could be so easy!

Since the challenge calls for cream filled pastries, the cream filling seems the best place to start:

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere 
1 cup whole milk
2 TBS. cornstarch
6 TBS sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 TBS.  unsalted butter
1 tsp Vanilla
In small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan and 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 the eggs don't start cooking.
Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking until the cream thickens and starts boiling again. Remove from heat and transfer to stainless steal bowl.
Beat in the butter and vanilla until smooth.
Cover with saran wrap or in airtight container and place in refrigerator until ready to use. (I made mine the night before to ensure it was cool)

I used both vanilla and coffee créme patissiere.. simply mix 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder with 1 TBS boiling water and add to finished vanilla créme.

The puff pastry is next. Although you can make this a day ahead and keep in an airtight container, it is best to make the day you'll be serving it. 

Pate a Choux (makes about 28)
¾ cup water
6 TBS unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
1 cup AP flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. One boiling, 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 bowl and stir with wooden spoon for about a minute so it slightly cools.
Add an egg- making the batter appear loose and shiny.
Put some muscle into it and mix the batter till it starts to become the consistency of mashed potatoes. 
At this point add the next egg, repeating this process until all 4 eggs are incorporated.
Transfer dough to pasty bag with open tip (I piped directly from bag instead of adding a tip) and pipe out choux about 1 inch apart and 1 inch high.
Brush tops with egg wash and place in oven.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until slightly golden. At this time, turn oven down to 350 and continue to bake for 20 minutes.

Cool on rack for about 20 minutes.

The assembly is broken down into a few steps..

Filling the pastries
When you're ready to assemble, use a plain pastry tip and pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using a regular or star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Make sure not to overfill your pastries- you should be able to feel when they're full.

The last piece in the Piece Montée is the glaze used to keep the structure together. I used a combination of caramel and chocolate, so both recipes follow:

Chocolate Glaze
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
Melt chocolate in microwave- 1 minute, stopping to stir at 30 seconds. If not completely melted, place back in microwave for 30 second intervals.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. 
With a metal kitchen spoon stir 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 and use immediately. (This stuff honestly starts to harden almost instantly so make sure you have everything ready before you make this.. I had to return it to the stove top a couple times to make it warm enough to use again)

Use a piece of parchment paper cut into an 8-inch circle or a round cake board as a template for the bottom layer of pastries. Dip pastries in chocolate and place larger pastries on the bottom layer (about 7 or 8). Drizzle with caramel. Repeat this process assembling next layer of pastries atop the bottom layer, reducing the number of pastries in each layer creating a cone or pyramid shape. Once all pastries have been used drizzle with remaining chocolate and caramel.

Yet another amazing Daring Baker Challenge.. can't wait for June!!  

Bon Appetit!