This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Cat from Little Miss Cupcake.

I can’t tell you how excited and freaked out, I was when I logged into the The Daring Kitchen website to see what the Daring Bakers’ challenge was going to be for the month of May and found out it was going to be Croquembouche.

Some people find macarons intimidating… well, I found this challenge completely and utterly intimidating.

For starters up to this point I had never made Pâte à choux (Choux pastry) and the thought of having to make close to 100 profiteroles in order to create a decent size Croquembouche sent shivers down my spine.

Nonetheless, deep down inside (way deep…) I’ve always wanted to make one, and now thanks to Cat… the perfect opoortunity presented it self.

Up to this point you might be asking yourself why in the world would the title of this post be Pièce Tombée (fallen piece) if the top most pictures look like it’s well put together?

So, I will try to explain my adventures in Croquembouche making using the Cliff Notes version.

  • Started making cream puffs about a week and a half ago
  • Stored them in freezer
  • Made coffee flavored pastry cream
  • Thawed puffs and filled them with pastry cream
  • Made Caramel Glaze and started putting together the Croquembouche
  • Took a couple of pictures Wednesday night ( the two you saw above)
  • Had plans to drizzle Croquembouche with a dark chocolate glaze and take final pictures for post the following morning
  • Thursday morning ran into pantry looking for chocolate, and realized I had none
  • The night before I went to the store and was going to pick some up; decided I shouldn’t because I was certain I had plenty at home
  • Dissapointed in my lack of memory I got ready, left for work and decided I would continue working on it once I got home
  • Once I got home, I was informed by my husband that when he got home he found a bunch of “those things from the dessert I was working on” on the floor

So there you have it… THE END.

PS: This isn’t the last of battle Croquembouche, you can bet there will be a rematch!

Just in case you want to attempt this little battle yourself below are a few recipes that you might find useful.

Oh, and if you are in need of a little Culinary challenge be sure and visit The Daring Kitchen for great cooking and/or baking adventures.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)

¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Butter & Water
Pate Choux
Pate Choux
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

Pate Choux
Pate Choux
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Pate Choux

Pate Choux

Pate Choux

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.


Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Coffee Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 Tsp. instant espresso powder disolved in 1 1/2 Tsp. boiling water

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla and disolved instant espresso powder.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Coffee Pastry Cream

Hard Caramel Glaze
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Caramel Glaze

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Bake Sale Booth @ the Help Make a Miracle Carnival for baby Daylon
After a busy week and many a late night in the kitchen, the day of the Bake Sale finnaly arrived!

Here my youngest with a big smile and ready to help, and Rachael of La Fuji Mama who I always see with a huge smile on her face, is busy in the background getting things all set up for the Bake Sale at the “Help Make a Miracle” carnival.

You would have laughed to see the look on my little helper’s face at about 3:00 pm nothing like what you see here. But what else can you expect from an 11 year old. :) I guess, the cinnamon roll, hot dog, kettle corn, and shaved ice were a bit much…

Since I spent most of my week working on the cake pops, and because I wanted to contribute more than one type of dessert for the bake sale, I decided to make these yummy Oatmeal Cookies I chose them because they were quick and easy to make, oh and they just happen to taste fantastic!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

President Clinton’s Oatmeal Cookies
From Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups fat raisins

Sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter on high speed until lemony yellow, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle or beaters.

Add the sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Continue creaming the mixture on high speed until it is smooth an dlump-free, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Batter
Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition. beat on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds, until the eggs are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Fat Raisins in Oatmeal Cookie Batter
On low speed, add the sifted flour mixture, beating until all of the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, mix in the oats and raisins.

With a rubber spatula, scoop out the dough and divide it in half. Center one half along the bottom of a sheet of parchment paper and roll it up in the paper, creating a log about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Fold over the parchment paper, creating a sausage. Twist the ends over and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough logs for a minimum of 1 hour. (At this point the dough will keep nicely, wrapped well, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or up to 1 month in the freezer.) You can also simply spoon the dough onto parchment-covered baking sheets and bake at once.

Place racks in the middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough is chilled, remove it from the parchment paper. Using a chef’s knife or an offset serrated knife, slice 1/2 inch rounds off the log. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back, and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and carefully slide the parchment off the sheets and directly onto your work surface. Cool the banking sheets between batches. Wait a minimum of 5 minutes before eating, or allow to cool completely before storing the cookies in an airtight container. (The cookies will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature.)

NOTE from Sherry: Instead of forming the logs and chilling, you can also scoop spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment-lined sheets. Spoon teaspoons for small cookies, tablespoons for large.

President Clinton's Oatmeal Cookies
Fat Raisins
Adapted from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard


1 1/2 cups golden or red flame raisins
3/4 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine the raisins, wine, orange juice, rum, and sugar in a small heavy saucepan, bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring all the while. Lower the heat so that the liquid is at a bare simmer and poach for 20 minutes.

Raisins Poaching
Remove from the heat, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

(The raisins will keep for up to 2 weeks).

Here are two lovely ladies rockin’ the Bake Sale booth!

Rachael - Fuji Mama and me

Rachael received so many amazing treats for the bake sale, just take a look at all this deliciousness… it’s never ending.

Fuji Mama's Lemon Blueberry Cake in a Jar
Bake Sale Treats
Fuji Mama's AMAZING Toffee
More Treats
I made sure and bought one of these amazing caramel apples before they were all gone!

The BEST EVER Caramel Apples
Shameless plug of my Truffle Cake Pops. Rachael and I renamed my pops for the bake sale for “marketing purposes”. 😉

Truffle Cake Pops

Without giving too much away, and because I can’t wait for Rachael’s recap on the event. I just want to say that… I was so touched by all the love, selflessness, and kindness I encountered yesterday. It was refreshing to see how many good people there are in this world, this leads me to think that Daylon’s miracle will soon become a reality.

After an amazing day of giving, I headed home, got cleaned up and the family and I headed out to enjoy a little evening entertainment compliments of our son Joseph aka Robin Hood.

A little after 7:00 PM the curtains went up for “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood”.

The show was a hit, we all loved it! Congrats to the entire cast, you were all AMAZING!


This weekend I’ll be going over to my nieces house to celebrate her birthday and I will be bringing along this little baby.

Actually I’m going to have to drop it off Saturday morning on my to the “Build Your Best Blog” Seminar in Los Angeles.

Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White On Rice Couple and Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen will be leading presentations on topics that will help optimize our blogs and take advantage of current tools and resources to do so. I’m all for “optimizing”!

I’m sorry I don’t have a yummy drool worthy photo of a big nice slice of the cheesecake. I’ll try to take a picture of a slice on Saturday and update this post with it.

I’ll be sure and leave a little note attached to the cheesecake box that says “Save a slice for Josie, or else!” when I drop it off Saturday morning!

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake
adapted from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook
Mango Cheesecake by Nigella Lawson

8 oz animal crackers
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
4 oz unsalted butter softened and cut into pieces

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Ingredients

Cheesecake batter
8 oz fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
8 oz fresh or frozen mango chunks
3 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice
2 teaspoons pineapple rum
2 teaspoons coconut rum

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake Crust
Ground animal crackers in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Crumbs
Add dark brown sugar and butter. Pulse until mixture clumps together like damp sand.
Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Crust
Press mixture evenly into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and refrigerate while preparing filling.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Frozen Fruit
Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Pineapple Mango Puree
In a food processor or with an immersion blender puree the pineapple and mango. If using frozen fruit, bring to room temperature by heating the puree in a small saucepan over low heat.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Cream Cheese
In a food processor or stand mixer blend the puree with the cream cheese until smooth.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Eggs
Add sugar and continue mixing, slowly add eggs one at a time until well combined. Finally add the lemon juice, pineapple rum, and coconut rum, mix well.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake - Batter
Place springform pan on a double layer of heavy-duty foil. Crimp edges up around pan to make a waterproof casing. Place foil-covered pan in a deep roasting pan. Pour filling into pan and pour boiling water into roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of cake pan, but not higher than foil.

Pineapple Mango Cheesecake
Bake until filling is set and wobbles slightly in the center, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove pan from water bath. Discard foil and place pan on a cooling rack.

When cool, refrigerate overnight.

To serve, remove sides from pan and place on a serving platter.

Time: 2 hours, plus overnight chilling
Yields: 8 to 10 servings

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February 2010 – Daring Bakers’ Challenge

And boy was it a challenge!








(All made from scratch!!)

I’m always giving my oldest a hard time because he is such a procrastinator. I have no idea where or how he picked up this awful habit.

Yet I see myself here this late Saturday night, having just completed my Daring Bakers’ challenge only a few hours left in the day before I need to get this post up.

I started this little project of mine Thursday night, by making the Mascarpone. Yesterday night I made the Savoiardi and the Zabaglione. And today I made the rest of the components and put it all together including this post.

Excuses… oh yeah, I have plenty of those. As does he. 😉

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

from Baking Obsession

I can’t even begin to describe how yummy the Mascarpone turned out. This is one recipe you MUST try!

500 ml whipping (36%) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferable organic cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering.

Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating.

Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir.

Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve.

Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time).

Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Ladyfingers/ Savoiardi Biscuits

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated

6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar

3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)

6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees.

Lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon.

Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu

from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )

This recipe makes 6 servings


2 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar/50gms

1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)

1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/4 cup/55gms sugar

1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Whipped Cream

1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)

1/4 cup/55gms sugar

1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

Assemble the tiramisù

2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed

1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)

1/2 cup/110gms sugar

1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese

36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)

2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.

Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Daring Bakers'

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Italian Pretzel Cookies

February 20, 2010

in Cookies,Recipes

Is there such a thing?

Before leaving for my trip to NYC a colleague of mine somewhat described them to me as a sweet semi-crisp, semi-chewy cookie in the shape of a pretzel with chocolate on the bottom.

Once in NYC, since my hotel was relatively close (within walking distance) to Little Italy I had the opportunity to visit a couple of Italian Bakeries and Coffee Shops and sample their wonderful cookies and pastries.

At Ferrara’s I sampled a trio of miniatures which included cannoli (a crispy mini tube filled with ricotta cream & chocolate chip), sfogliatella (a clam shaped flaky pastry filled with ricotta, farina and fruit) & cheminee (a chocolate chimney filled with chocolate & vanilla mousse & a berry) accompanied by a nice hot americano (coffee that is) Everything was excellent!

On my way out I asked if they had Italian Pretzel Cookies they said they didn’t know what they were, and sold me chocolate covered pretzels instead. They looked so good, I just couldn’t resist.

At Caffé Roma my most memorable bite would have to be of their pignoli cookies, they were absolutly amazing, I enjoyed them with a little espresso.

I asked if they had Italian Pretzel Cookies and just got a strange look and a nod indicating they did not.

That evening I decided to do a little research OK, well I Googled. I tried to find the Italian Name for these mystery cookies. The closest I could come up with was Taralli/Tarrallucci.

A few days later, I stopped by Rocco’s Pastry and picked up a couple of their chocolate and traditional amaretti cookies, they were very yummy.

I took a chance and asked if they happened to have any Italian Pretzel Cookies? They said no… I asked if they had Taralli/Tarrallucci the closest cookie they had was a lemon flavored cookie with a lemon glaze.

I’m not even sure if there is such a thing as an Italian Pretzel Cookie, in any case I decided to make up my own version.

I took a Taralli Dolci dough and dipped it in chocolate.

Fatto! Vi do… Josie’s Italian Pretzel Cookies.


Taralli Dolci or Italian Pretzel Cookies?
adapted from
FoodNetwork.com by Nick Malgieri

Makes 46 cookies

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

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