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Daring Baker’s Challenge May 2010: Piece Montée

My grandma’s piece de resistance is pate a choux (never used so many French words into the same sentence, I swear!): she is famous among our relatives for her choux, since she’s able to bake a whole tray of superb puff pastries all by herself, filling them with amazingly soft pastry cream and dusting them with icing sugar. When she steps into the room proudly bringing her tray of puff pastries, she is like the woman of an old tv advertising, a woman with an apron and a bright smile on her face. This is my grandma, this is my mental image of her: proud yet modest, she brightens up the party with a sweet touch.

Imagine my happiness and excitement when I figured out that this month’s DB Challenge was a Piece montée, also know as Croquembouche, a traditional wedding cake in France, used for baptisms and communions as well. The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Modern pastry chefs have taken to assembling this dessert in all manners of shapes and sizes.

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Experiment with agar agar… coffee and chocolate cubes

Monday morning. Have you had a good weekend? Mine was fabulous! Saturday morning I had the first cooking class for children: a success beyond all expectations. There were 30 kids screaming and happy, covered with strawberries and yogurt, with their noses floured and their mouths dirty with ricotta. In the midst of all this crazy group of people, there was me, maybe more radiant and happy than all of them together, with a smile of satisfaction on my face.

So let’s start the week with a boost of energy, a quick recipe that celebrates and enhances my new love, agar agar. All of this started on the 12th of April, when I read Sigrid’s post about agar agar. Flash and revelation! Once you start playing with this powder – that is a very natural seaweed extract, vegetal and rich in minerals – you won’t be able to stop, and you’ll try to solidify anything existing naturally in a liquid form.

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