Daring Bakers: Pièce Montée and a Croquembouche

Posted on Posted in coffee, daring kitchen, dessert, French
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a pièce montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.
Martha Stewart made it look easy and so pretty. The host of this challenge made it look easy and lovely. The other DBers made it look easy and amazing. But it wasn’t easy or pretty for me. 
This is the final product. It is ugly and messy after two days of work. I had to make the pastry cream twice b/c the first one was too runny, the caramel sauce twice because I ran out of the first one, and the cream puffs twice because the dough (or batter in my case) was too runny. I had to do this all while having a serious toothache b/c of a wisdom tooth (or teeth) that I’m too chicken to get extracted. The pain was/is so unbearable that I didn’t eat anything until the late evening. All of that work, and this so-called pièce montée (“assembled or mounted piece”) and croquembouche (“crunch in mouth”) is all I have to show for it.  I don’t even like cream puffs, but I wanted to complete this challenge since I missed out on so many in the past.
Mise en place (the (failed) coffee pastry cream is in the bottle)
This challenge made me realize some things: 1) If I’m willing to spend all this time, effort, and money on a baking project, I should be able to extend even more effort on my dissertation. 2) I don’t know if I can keep doing this Daring Kitchen thing. I was so frustrated today to the point of tears. *sigh* 
Anyway, below are photos of the process. I don’t feel like going into details about the project. As far as taste is concerned, the pastry cream and puffs tasted good enough, but the caramel was so hard, I had to spit it out.
Blurry photo. Sorry.

So, yeah, I’m going to take a break from the kitchen for a few days. I don’t even want to do anymore baking for a long time (hah! yeah, right). I should feel better by tomorrow.

You can find the recipe on Cat’s blog.
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Pastry Cream Process (the runny version): I was too tired to take photos of the good version.
I ended up using this pastry cream recipe on my second attempt.
Caramel (reheated a MILLION times):
First Creme Puff attempt was fine before…
adding the eggs…
Tried to work with the runny dough and ended up burning the puffs. Thanks overheating, old oven!
No, these are not macarons.
After adding flour to the runny dough…
Next day, second attempt.
 Better, but not great. 
The croquembouche kept falling, and I kept burning myself with the hot caramel that I had to reheat over and over again. Do I sound frustrated much?
A photo of the croquembouche caving in.

Oh well. I apologize for sounding so negative. I’m just tired and in pain. Take care, everyone!

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Memoria James

0 thoughts on “Daring Bakers: Pièce Montée and a Croquembouche

  1. I'm making my rounds amongst all you Daring Bakers this evening and am so amazed at what you've all accomplished with this recipe.

  2. Next time you should come to my kitchen and we'll make it together. It will be so much more fun and you'll get your baking mojo back. Feel better soon. Estúpido dientes.

  3. Hi, Memoria

    I am sorry that you had so many problems with your daring challenge this time, sweetheart. I applaud you for your hard work and I think you did well under the circumstances! You are such a hard dedicated worker :o)

    I agree that you should take a break; please. please get that tooth taken care of and work on your dissertation. You will come back better and stronger–still you rise! I love you!

  4. Be brave. Get that tooth taken care of. Good for you even attempting this challenge. It looks great in spite of all the pitfalls. I found that if there was too much spun sugar it wasn't great. Just a touch is best.

  5. Well I happen to think this looks good despite all it's challenges. There's nothing ugly about it Memoria.

    I am sorry that you put that much effort into something and it still wasn't up to your expectations. The coffee pastry cream sounds great though 🙂

    And listen to your mother and get your tooth/teeth taken care of. You're going to regret it the longer you wait. I used to work in a dental office- trust me on this!

    Take care of yourself and have a nice weekend.

  6. sorry it gave you such frustration, but i'd never call it ugly and messy! i'd say it's impressive and artistic, and i applaud your efforts!

  7. I'm so impressed by you determination to finish this. Kudos to you despite the tooth ache and multiple issues – it looks amazing. Take a break, take care of yourself!

  8. I've been wanting to make a croquembouche for the longest time but keep putting it off. It looks like your efforts paid off. Your's looks delicious!

  9. You poor dear — I admire your sticking with it even in your frustration. I feel your pain with this one for sure, but I hope you don't break from baking for too long. Feel better and get to a dentist!

  10. Oh no, sorry you had such a hard time with this. Maybe you were just tired and frustrated. Happens to me ALL the time in the kitchen. Even with this challenge — I filled the puffs and planned to freeze them, then read that I should only freeze UNfilled puffs. I seriously broke down and was in tears worrying about my stupid filled puffs. Anyway, take a break if you feel like you need it. You deserve it for sure.

  11. *big hug* I'm so sorry this wasn't a fun experience for you!! I know what you mean about the caramel being frustrating and having to reheat. I think it looks beautiful, despite your troubles!

    Feel better soon!

  12. I wish my failures looked like that! But I totally understand. A few weeks ago my friend had a wedding, and where she's from there's a tradition where some friends and family bring homemade cookies. I tried to make a Slovak type of cookie because of her family history, but they didn't turn out right, so I said I'll just stick to what I know and make white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, but I used my roommate's not-nonstick pan and they stuck, breaking as I took them off. It was really stressful, and I swore off cooking. And then I made macarons for the first time a week later :).

  13. Actually after seeing your photos again, you could use a cone to support the croquembouche in the center so it doesn't fall 🙂

  14. Memoria, Memoria, Memoria. First, this is NOT ugly. This was meant to be challenging, hence the use of the term "daring" in daring bakers challenge. You stepped up to the challenge and did a great job. You should be patting yourself on the back. Despite the many issues (& pain!) you had you stuck to it and created something beautiful and I'm certain delicious. 🙂

    Hope you have a restful and tooth pain free holiday weekend!
    ~ingrid

  15. I think you were totally daring and deserve the title of "daring baker." I think it turned out great and you should be proud for putting yourself out there and taking the challenge. Good for you!!

    Relax for a couple days and let someone else do the baking. Enjoy your weekend!

  16. First of all, it is not ugly–it look lovely. Second of all, I admire your sticking with it through everything. That takes guts and determination.
    Sometimes, we all have kitchen days where we just go: "Arghhh!"
    And, I have had wisdom teeth extracted and it really isn't as bad as all that. I dreaded it, too, but it was fine. Feel better!

  17. At first I was excited about trying this, but now not so much. Lol. I think you did a great job despite the circumstances.

  18. Wow, esto se ve muy complejo. Te felicito al parecer lograste el desafio y se ve delicioso.

  19. Oh, honey, even your meekest endeavors are awe-inspiring amongst those less talented! You are a wonderful baker and I understand being frustrated by all the work you put into something that turned out not as you expected but we get to see so many things you make that turn out gorgeously. I feel you on the wisdom teeth. Having them out sucked but I'm glad I did it! I didn't have hardly any pain from the extraction, so don't be afraid of that–it just took a while for the swelling to go down and my mouth smelled like a graveyard for a while. But if your wisdom teeth have already grown in, in might not even cause all that much swelling to have them out. Mine had to be cut out. Good luck! Get them handled and get out of pain!

  20. It's too hard to concentrate when you are in pain. Don't be too hard on yourself! Take a break concentrate on feeling better and the kitchen will call you again!

  21. Oh no about the caramel! How frustrating. I bet you are tired. First, that's not an easy dessert to make. And second, to have it not come out perfect after all those long hours must be painful, indeed. Well, I, for one, give you an "A'' for effort. You amaze me for even attempting this. 😉

  22. I hope you recovered from this little debacle. You deserved a couple of days of rest and a good back rub. I hope you pampered yourself and are feeling better now.

  23. Oh, I'm really sorry for all the trouble you've had with this 'huge dessert' 🙂 I guess all of us who love baking have to once come to the point where they need to try making this 'big thing' – I haven't reached that point yet but I really thank you for showing me (us) what it can involve. 🙂 But still, I think your version looks LOVELY and VERY TASTY. Have a wonderful week. 🙂 Petra

  24. These sound amazing! But I can only imagine the frustration I would be feeling if I attempted to make these (in addition to a tooth ache!)
    I vote that you take a break and come to Ireland! haha
    Hopefully I'll be hitting up some good food places soon that will surely make their way onto the blog 🙂

  25. Even though they didn't meet your expectations it still looks fantastic. Actually I was thinking the other day how disasters make us better cooks. You gained experience through all of this which counts for a lot. Hope you feel better and don't play with that tooth! Get to the dentist.

  26. By looking at your gorgeous croquembouche, one would never ever know it didn't turn out the way you'd hoped. I should send you my address so you can send your disappointments to me! 🙂 Beautifully done!! Hope you feel better soon!

  27. Wow you are being a little hard on yourself. I think it looks amazing. This is a hard dish to make. The choux pastry and tte caramel alone are trouble. But you have managed to pull this off. Well done. Looks great to me!

  28. That looks amazing!! It's not ugly at all! That is so much work, I'm totally in awe. It vaguely reminds me of when I made macarons, but way more work and frustration. You did it!

  29. Wow–they look fabulous (and I am sure, they were delicious)! I have been dreaming about these little treats forever, I may need to make them soon!

  30. I had a beautiful pièce montée on my wedding. It was created by a Maitre Cuisinier de France and cost a fortune. And we ate so much before that that nobody really wanted to eat it by the time we came to it. I still feel sad when I think of the waste.

    It was a good attempt and looked very delicious and pretty! Brava!

  31. Susur Lee made a gigantic version of this on Top Chef Masters this season and I've wanted to make it ever since I saw it! You've made me think twice, though; he made it seem so simple but now I know that it's anything but! Yours looks beautiful, at least!

  32. i was so suprised to read how badly everything had gone because the finished product looks beautiful. i hope you feel better and want to be back in the kitchen soon.

  33. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I had two wisdom teeth extracted on Friday. Was easy as pie and I am recovering quite nicely. I have had all four removed in total and let me tell you… it's 100 x better without them. With the anesthesia you don't feel a thing.

  34. Wow, at least it looks pretty! I totally feel your pain (baking wise), I messed up dessert two nights in a row >.< Although your challenge did look ridiculously more difficult!

    Good to see you're back in the kitchen now, that cheesecake looks fabulous, and I know that recipe tastes amazing too!

  35. I've always wanted to try a daring bakers challenge but have never been, well, daring enough! Maybe someday! Kudos though! That looks amazing. Thanks for stopping by PasstheSushi.com!

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