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May 2010 - Daring Bakers' Challenge : Piece Montée (Croquembouche)

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.

After making Pâte à choux for the first time I feel pretty impressed with myself.  Learning how to work with the dough and cook the flour prior to adding the eggs is truely the hard part of making Pâte à choux.  If you don't cook the dough long enough in the sauce pan you will end up with round jelly dounut looking Pâte à choux rather then big puffy clouds that are begging to be filled with tasty delights.

For this challenge I made the Pâte à choux, the pastry filling, and the Chocolate dipping sauce from scratch.  The hardest part I had with this challenge was making my mounted piece look pretty.  The second hardest part was really have no one to share this yummy desert with.  Aaron and I ate it, don't get me wrong.. I just would of liked to serve it to family and friends.  Here are my photos, if you would like to see the recipe please go to this link.  I did not have time to include my method of making the recipe, I started back to work this week and things have been busy.

on nom nom nom


Daring Cooks Challenge May 2010: Enchilada Stack

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

As you can see my Enchilada Stack is not green.  Last month I worked on making some Chile Verde and felt that I would give making a red sauce a try instead.  I made homemade corn tortillas and stacked the enchiladas with olives as an ode to my Mother's enchilada influence.

Please note that I made a large amount of enchilada sauce to freeze and use again on another day.

Enchilada Sauce:
  • 3 Guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 Ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 cups of hot water
  • 1 large, or two small yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground oregano
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ pounds fresh tomato
  • 1-2 serrano chiles, halved and seeded
Corn Tortilla:
  • 1 ½ cup masa flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • tortilla press
Enchilada Stack:
  • Roasted chicken meat, shredded (white, dark, or both)
  • white onion, chopped
  • jack cheese, grated
  • black olives, chopped for the inside, some whole for the garnish
  • Queso fresco cheese, garnish
  • cilantro leaves, garnish
  • radishes, thinly sliced, garnish
  • avocado, sliced, garnish

Enchilada Sauce Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place clean tomatoes in a large glass heat proof dish.  Roast the tomatoes for 45 minutes to an hour, turning once.  The skin should start to shrivel up and fall off.

After the tomatoes have cooled down remove the skin and discard.

Add the garlic and serrano chiles to the blender and then put the peeled tomatoes on top along with the cumin and oregano.  Puree for about 20 seconds, you don't want to bust up the tomato seeds themselves because then the sauce will become bitter.  Pour the sauce into a glass bowl and set aside.  I try to always use nonreactive cook items when cooking with tomatoes.

Place the stemmed, and seeded  Guajillo and Ancho chiles in a small sauce pan.  Cover them with water and bring the water to a boil.  Once the water boils turn the water off and let the chiles steep till them are plump and hydrated.

Remove the chiles from the water and place them in a blender.  Taste the water the chiles stewed in if it tastes bitter discard.  If it does not taste bitter add one cup chile water plus one cup tap water to the blender.  Puree the chiles till the are completely blended.  Run the chile sauce through a fine mesh strainer.

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and saute the onions in vegetable oil till they are translucent.  Add the pureed tomato and chili mixture.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste for flavor.  You might need to add salt or even sugar to the sauce depending on the ripeness of your tomatoes.

Corn Tortilla Method:

Mix mesa with salt, and cover it with warm water.  Stir it till it is loosely combined and then cover it for 20 minutes.  Come back and form it into a large ball, you may need to add more water to help it come together; add 1 Tbsp at a time.  Section the dough into 12 triangles.

As you can see mine are not all the same size.  Whoopsie!

Roll them into little balls and press them out in the tortilla press.

Store them between sheets of parchment paper before and after you cook them.  Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron over medium high heat.  Cook each tortilla for about 30-40 seconds a side.  Serve them right away or store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Tortilla Stack Method:

Basically I heated a small amount of peanut oil in a skillet.  Toasted each tortilla and then dipped it into the heated enchilada sauce.  I stacked mine with layers of chicken, white onion, jack cheese, and sliced olives.  I baked them for about 20 minutes at 350 just till the cheese started melted.  I plated them and garnished with whole olives, fresh avocado slices, sliced radishes, cilantro, and Queso fresco cheese.

Great challenge, and a great way to spend Cinco de Mayo


Julia's Roast Chicken - Poulet Rôti

This recipe cracks me up, mostly because Julia try to help you create a spit roasted chicken without the use of a spit.  The basic technique for cooking whole poultry is common in most cookbooks, first cook the bird at a high temperature and then lower the temperature to complete the roast.  I do the same thing when I cook turkeys.

In Julia's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking she states you can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roasted chicken.  I believe that, I love that.  Julia goes on to explain what makes a good roasted chicken, juicy meat, browned crispy skin, buttery flavor.  She explains that to master cooking a bird you need to learn to listen to it crackle and pop in the oven, and most importantly make sure it continually gets basted. 

Trader Joe's has some really nice roasting chickens and I would recommend them for this recipe.


  • 4-6 lb roasting chicken
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 carrot, cut into thirds
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 3 feet of kitchen twine
for basting: a small sauce pan containing 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, 1Tbsp olive oil, and a basting brush.


Estimated roasting time for a 5 pound bird is 1 ½ hours

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and 1 Tbsp butter.

Truss the chicken, for this I used Thomas Kellers method instead of Julia's.  I did this because I did not have access to a trussing  needle.  Place the chicken on a large plate or tray with the legs pointing toward you.  Wrap the string under the birds neck, pulling the strings over the breast line.  Make a knot under he breasts to plump them up (you can see in the later pictures that I did not knot it there and it popped up).  Then cross the strings and wrap them around the opposite drumstick twice and then bring the drumsticks together and knot them to finish.  Keller normally also tucks the wings under, I started my bird with the wings tucked under but then found with Julia's method of rotating the bird while it cooked would not allow the wings to stay in the tucked position.

Place the chicken breast side up on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan.  Strew the carrot and  onion around in the roasting pan. Rub the rest of the butter all over the top of the chicken.

Now this is the tricky part.  Julia's instructions are to brown the chicken at 425 for 15 minutes turning it every 5 minutes.  My oven is an apartment oven and it does not hold heat well.  Her instructions say to open the oven after 5 minutes baste and turn the chicken over on left side, let it cook for 5 more minutes and turn it on the right side.  Basically breast side up for 5, left drumstick up for 5, and then left drum up for 5.  Basting it while you do the flips.  I did this every 10 minutes instead of the instructed 5 minutes.  Mostly because I don't think my oven was holding the temperature properly.

So after you finish flipping the bird around for 15 minutes or a half hour if you have a crappy oven; turn the oven down to 350 degrees- leave the chicken on it's side and baste every 8-10 minutes.  Halfway through the roasting time turn the chicken on it's other side, and salt it with a ¼ tsp of kosher salt.  15 minutes before the estimated roasting time is up turn the chicken breast side up and salt it again with ¼ tsp kosher salt; continue basting.

The chicken is done when a it reaches 165 degrees, or as Julia says you might see a sudden rain of splutters in the oven, a swelling of the breast and slight puff of the skin, the drumstick is tender when pressed and can be moved in its sockets.

Place the done chicken on a carving board and remove the trussing string.  Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes before carving. 

If you care to make a pan sauce remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting pan.  Place roasting pan over a burner and heat over medium heat.  Stir in 1 minced shallot and cook for 1 minute.  Add 1 cup chicken stock and boil rapidly over high heat scraping all the bits from the roasting pan.  Transfer the sauce to a sauce pan if you wish or keep it in the roasting pan.  After the sauce has reduced by half and 1 Tbsp of butter and serve immediately.


Shrimp Risotto

Before I started making Risotto I assumed it was a fancy dish that required time and fancy ingredients to make.  I find myself making Risotto often with left over items.  Cheese that is almost past its prime, last weeks leftover veggies all are good things to experiment with when making Risotto.  I always have homemade stock in my freezer so all I really need is a few items to whip up a tasty dinner. 

  • ½ to 1 lb raw shrimp, size does not matter.. ./giggle
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly grated pepper
  • ½ cup Chardonnay
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice
  • 4-5 cups shellfish stock, heated
  • ¼ cup cream, heated
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ smoked Gouda
  • 3 green onions, chopped

After you have cleaned the shrimp heat a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Dry the shrimp, if the shrimp you are using has shells leave them on and remove them after they are cooked.  Add the olive oil to the hot skillet.  Sprinkle one side of the dried shrimp with kosher salt and freshly grated pepper.  Place the shrimp into the skillet seasoned side down.  Season the other side of the shrimp with the salt and pepper.  Cook the shrimp about a minute and a half for each size, if you are using smaller shrimp adjust the cooking time accordingly. 

After the shrimp are done, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Once the shrimp are cool enough to handle take the shells off all of them and leave the tails on 8 of the shrimp for garnish, chop the rest of the shrimp up into bite size pieces.  If you prefer you can chop all the shrimp up, I just think leaving a few shrimp whole to garnish the top of each plate makes a nice presentation.

Keep the heat on the pan and cook the onions and garlic for 4 minutes, or till they are tender.  Add the risotto rice to the pan, and saute it for a few minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the chardonnay, after the wine completely reduces start to add the shellfish stock.  Add a half a cup at a time. 

Let the rice absorb all the liquid before adding more, and stir the risotto constantly.  This process should take about a half hour. 

Test the rice after a half hour and if it is soft and feels done, stop adding stock.

Once the risotto is soft add the warm cream.  Let the cream get absorbed into the rice and then add the cheese. 

After you mix in the cheese add the green onions (save some for garnish), and the chopped shrimp.

Plate with a few whole shrimp and some green onions.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4 for a main course, and 6-8 for a small appetizer.