One of the best things about this dessert is that it doesn't include chocolate! I decided to fill the puffs with vanilla pastry cream and passion fruit curd. For the glue, I used caramel. I wanted to make some spun sugar, but the day was a bit grey and drizzly, so I skipped it, though my first batch of caramel did spontaneously turn into spun sugar. I didn't have time at that point, as I didn't want to be late for my own brunch.
The pâte à choux was really easy to work with, and I got 35 puffs from the recipe given. I used about 30 to make the croquembouche, as that's all I could fill using the 2 batches of filling I made. I used the challenge recipe for the vanilla pastry cream, and the recipe for the passion fruit curd comes from Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Berenbaum. The vanilla pastry cream was the perfect texture, but the passion fruit curd was runny, which made for some messy eating. You can find the recipe for this, as well as the rest of the challenge recipes at the end of the post.
I dipped the filled puffs in the molten caramel by hand, burning myself a number of times. Only one blister, though, which is not too bad, considering I dipped them top and bottom. It was quite easy to build the structure, as the caramel was like super glue. The croquembouche sat for a few hours while we ate our brunch, and the caramel got a bit too chewy in the humidity, but it was still delicious. I'll definitely be making this one again! Check out our host Cat's site here, and see the slideshow of creations from the Daring Bakers here.
Blog-checking lines: 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.
Recipes after the jump!
Passion fruit curd (from Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Berenbaum)
Now, Rose is incredibly precise in her recipes, which is often helpful, but some of the copious details just seem like nit-picking to me, and would take longer to type. I have simplified this recipe slightly. Don't worry--it's still wonderful!
Makes about 1 cup
3 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup passion fruit puree (fresh or frozen)
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and whisk until blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, scraping the sides of the pan, until thickened. The curd will change from translucent to opaque and coat the spatula. Don't allow it to boil, and remove it from the heat briefly if it threatens to. When ready, the curd should pool thickly on its surface when dropped from the spatula. Strain into a bowl, cool a bit, then cover with plastic and refrigerate. Apparently it keeps for 3 weeks. I can only imagine...
Here is an illustrated PDF of the challenge recipes for the pâte à choux, pastry cream, and caramel, all of which I used and can highly recommend.