I am beat! My parents and I got into France 2 days ago. And last night, jet lag got the best of me and I was wide awake at 3:00 am. Powered through the day and decided to complete the weekly baking tasks from the Holiday Baking Championship.
A trip to the grocery and $400 later, I was ready to go. We are staying in a house that belongs to my sister’s coworker, which is incredibly nice of her and her husband. However, she does not have many baking ingredients or tools. The grocery wasn’t easy since some American ingredients don’t exist here. I had to keep it simple this week because of that fact and also wishing not to spend any more money. Due to timing and coordinating with dinner, I made the main heat first and whipped up the preheat after.
The main heat was a Croqembouche, or stacked cream puffs to resemble a Christmas tree. How very French! I went with a classic profiterole recipe with lightened pastry cream.
The first challenge was not having any measuring cups. I found a disposible mini tart pan that looked close to a cup measure and used that. I weighed the butter and used google to convert tablespoons to grams. The dough turned out great, to my surprise. Measurements successful! I dropped spoonfuls on the only cookie sheet I could find and got it baking.
Then I made pastry cream. It turned out quite light in color, I suspect I didn’t use enough egg yolks. In the freezer it went for a quick cool down. I didn’t think the cream would be enough to fill all the puffs so I made some whipped cream and folded it in.
Got the pâte à choux out of the oven and stuck that in the freezer to cool. Meanwhile, I melted a bar of chocolate on the stove which would be my base for putting it all together. Also found a star cookie cutter and used that as a mold for chocolate since the twist was to add a star topper. Good thing there is a lot of freezer space here so that had time to set up as well.
With 15 minutes to go on the 2 hour challenge, I started filling puffs and stacking. This is where I got most frustrated. There were no bags to be found. I’ve never made a piping bag out of parchment paper and one YouTube video was unsuccessful in teaching me. I didn’t have time to try again, so I split the puffs and spooned cream in the center. Drizzled the chocolate around the puffs to get them to stick to each other while stacking.
I made a mad dash to the other room to retrieve the pièce de résistance, the star, unmolded it, and practically threw it on the tree at the buzzer.
My tree was a bit rough. But given the circumstances, it was a miracle I produced what I did. Tasted pretty good too.
After dinner, I got started on the preheat; 1 hour to make a dessert in the shape of a stocking. Once again using pretty basic ingredients, I settled upon making Millionaire Shortbread Bars.
Unable to find a pastry cutter or masher, I used my fingers to cut the butter into flour and sugar for the base. Found a ceramic pan and got that baking. Back to the stove to make a luscious caramel and also melt more chocolate. Once the base was done, I spread the caramel on top and stuck in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then I spread the chocolate over the caramel and back in the freezer it went. It didn’t take long to realize that I wouldn’t finish in an hour. I feel relatively confident that if I had a metal baking dish, it would have worked. But the ceramic wouldn’t cool down in time making it impossible to cut the stockings out. I lightly scored the stocking pattern on the chocolate and added the decorations that I could find. After leaving them in the freezer for another hour, they were impossible to cut. I got one out for a picture but will cut the others tomorrow.
I am about 90% sure that next weeks final challenge will have to wait until I’m back home and in my own kitchen. It’s crazy that I’ve completed half of these in other people’s kitchens. But I would like the last one to be well executed and I’ll need all the equipment I can get. Hopefully when I get back in 10-12 days our house will be done with all the repairs.