Monday, 13 February 2012

Piece de Resistance

Piece de resistance literally translates to piece of resistance, but means the showpiece. And that's exactly what my birthday cake was this year.

Did I forget to mention that today's my birthday?

I know this dessert isn't technically a cake, but it's something I've always wanted to try making and it sure was delicious.

The only problem with making this dessert was that it took a little longer than making a regular cake and now I'm going to want one of these showpieces every year.

Get ready to marvel at my croquembouche!

Croquembouche - makes about 25-27 choux balls (I aimed for 27 because that's my new age but ended up with 25)


3/4 cups water
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Milk, for glaze


1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped

1/4 cup of purchased dulce de leche

Candy nest

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water

1. Start with your pastry. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine water, salt, butter, and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the heat and add the flour. Beat until the mixture forms a ball and pulls from the sides of the pot. I use a wooden spoon for this.

3. Put the mixture back on the heat for a minute so that it dries out a bit for the egg to be absorbed better. Now, beat 1/3 of the beaten eggs into the mixture, before adding the vanilla. Continue adding more of the beaten eggs until the dough is smooth and glossy. If you have a little egg left, that's ok. You will use it for your glaze.

4. Spoon the dough into a piping bag and pipe out 1 inch balls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Pipe the dough balls 2 inches apart so that they have room to expand when they're cooked. Press down any pointy tops of the dough balls.

5. Mix the milk into any egg mixture that remains and brush this onto the tops of the pastry. If no egg remains, just use milk. Bake until the pastry balls are light and golden, about 25-30 minutes.

6. Cool them on a wire rack and poke them with a kabob stick to let the hot air release. Poking them will also let you know if the pastry is cooked in the middle, the stick should come out clean.

7. While your pastry balls are cooling, make your cream. Put the milk in a medium pot and add the vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove from the heat. 

8. Combine the egg yolks and the sugar and beat to combine. Gradually beat in the flour before mixing the milk mixture in slowly. Return the whole mixture to the heat on the stove, allow mixture to boil so it thickens and stir constantly. 

9. Allow the mixture to cool and then fold in the whipped cream. 

10. Fill your pastry balls. Put the cream in a piping bag with a sharp tip and fill the balls evenly with cream. Use the hold you made with the kabob stick to help you fill the balls easily. 

11. Build your own piece de resistance. Spread a little of the dulce de leche on the bottom a pastry ball and stick it to a plate. Continue to build a tower, row and row, until you use all the balls up. Make sure to figure out how many balls can fit on a row before you start though or you may end up with a wall instead of a tower. 

12. Finally make the sugar nest for on top. Combine the sugar and water in a sauce pan and allow the sugar to dissolve. Boil the mixture to 340 degrees (you'll need a candy thermometer for this part). While the mixture is still hot, use forks and flick them around the top of the tower to form thin strands of a nest. 

13. Invite over friends because this dessert is best eaten tonight!

Come on, you know you want a bite, don't you?

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