The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.
Wowsers! This recipe, which is all about creating something that’s meant to represent a bicycle tyre, was one heck of a challenge. It took about as long to make as the bicycle race I reckon! Nah… it wasn’t too bad – all up it took around three and a half hours. You certainly don’t need to do it all in one go as I did. You can, for instance, make the praline well in advance and store it in the refrigerator and you could even make the choux pastry a few days ahead. The crème mousseline is the only component you need to make the same day as serving.
I’d attempted the Paris-Brest early on in my culinary journey (oh, the arrogance!) and made rather a hash of it (we’re talking split piping bags, unset cream, and a tyre with a massive blow-out), though it tasted divine. This time, a year or so on, I managed to make a half decent job of it. The process can seem rather intimidating when you start out, thanks to all the different components, but when you methodically take it step-by-step, it’s actually pretty straight forward – I’ve included a number of process photos to guide the way.
Now, let’s get down to why you’d even bother tackling such a project as this. Well, firstly, it’s pretty impressive to serve at a dinner party – you’ll definitely score some serious creds! Secondly, it’s incredibly ‘eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head’ delicious. Think crisp, yet wafer-light choux pastry studded with toasted almonds, combined with a decadently rich and smooth hazelnut and almond praline cream filling. Oh yeah baby – you had me at ‘hello’.
Makes 6 individual ‘wheels’ (or 12 mini ones)
For the Pâte à Choux:
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) water
- 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (100 ml) whole milk
- 1/3 teaspoon (2g) salt
- 1 teaspoon (4g) caster sugar
- 2-2/3 oz (75g) cold butter
- ¾ cup plus 4 teaspoons (3.5 oz) (100g) cake flour (high grade), sifted
- 3 medium eggs, beaten
- Two handfuls of slivered almonds
- Egg for brushing
For the Praline:
- 1/3 cup (2 oz) (60g) whole almonds
- 1/3 cup (2 oz) (60g) whole hazelnuts
- 6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80g) caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
For the Crème Mousseline: (Creme Mousseline is Creme Patissiere + butter)
- 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup (2 oz) (55g) caster (superfine) sugar
- 3 tablespoon (2/3 oz) (20g) cake flour (high grade), sieved
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (4.4 oz) (125g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 oz (80g) praline (see recipe)
- 1 vanilla pod, sliced open length wise and seeds scraped
- Confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)
For the Pâte à Choux:
- Preheat oven to moderate 180° C (350°F).
- In a saucepan pour in the milk, water, sugar and salt. Add the butter in small pieces and put on medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Add the flour in one shot to the boiling liquid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula. Cook on the stove on a very low heat for a few minutes, until the dough becomes firm and smooth – the dough must be dry and detach from the bottom of the pan easily.
- Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using dough hook beater/s beat the mixture on low speed for a few minutes, until it cools down somewhat (this is essential before adding the eggs, or the mixture will be too wet and the pastry won’t rise properly). Add the egg mixture, a third at a time, beating well on medium speed (make sure the mixture is well incorporated before adding each addition of egg). The dough should be glossy and smooth, like a thick cream.
- Cover two baking sheets with baking paper or a silpat mat. If you use baking paper you can trace some circles of 4¾ -inches (12 cm) to guide you when piping the circles (personally, I found this size a little large for individual serves – next time I’ll make 4 inch (10 cm) circles).
- Pipe the Paris-Brest use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) plain nozzle and pipe two circles, the outer one just inside the diameter of the circle you drew, and the inner one directly inside the first. Pipe a third circle over top and in the middle of the bottom two, using the star-shaped nozzle. If you don’t have one use a fork to trace some lines on its surface – this will help the choux pastry to rise properly.
- Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- Bake for about 23-25 minutes, in a static oven. Don’t under-bake them or they will easily deflate and be limp – the Paris-Brest should be golden brown, with a uniform colour.
- Transfer the baked pastries to a cooling rack and make a small slit into the side of each pastry to help them dry out (do this half way up, where you’ll eventually be slicing them anyway) and let them cool completely. Note: The baked Paris-Brest can be kept for several days in an airtight tin (don’t refrigerate) or they can be frozen.
For the Praline:
- Put the sugar into a saucepan, over medium heat. Add water and bring to a boil. When the sugar reaches 250°F/121° C (without thermometer you will need to reach the stage at which the sugar begins to boil and the syrup starts to thicken, though it won’t change colour yet), add the nuts all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon to coat all the nuts in the sugar. At this point, the sugar will start to crystallize and seize. Continue to stir – the sugar will melt a second time, this time caramelizing (changing colour). Once the sugar has melted and has turned amber, take the pan off the heat and pour the entire contents of the pan on a heat-resistant silicone mat, baking paper on top of an oven tray, or on a marble slab lightly oiled with vegetable oil. Let it cool completely.
- Break the praline into smaller pieces and grind in a food processor until you have a thick paste (if, even after minutes of processing the praline is not liquidising, add up to a tablespoon of neutral tasting vegetable oil in teaspoon additions). Put aside until needed. Note: The praline keeps for several weeks, stored in a glass jar in the fridge.
For the Crème Mousseline:
- In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod. Put aside and let cool for about 10 minutes.
- In a bowl beat or whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become thick and pale. Add the flour and beat/whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Add about a quarter of the warm milk into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking continuously. Now slowly add the egg mixture back into the saucepan of milk, whisking as you go, until well combined.
- Put the saucepan on medium heat. Cook until the custard thickens, stirring continuously – the mixture must be brought to the boil to cook out the flour (and don’t worry… as the mixture contains starch, the eggs won’t curdle). Once it’s thickened (which happens quite quickly), transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover with cling film (place the cling film directly onto the surface of the custard to ensure a skin doesn’t form). Let cool.
- In a bowl mix the softened butter with the prepared praline paste. Add to the cooled custard and mix until well combined and smooth (I used my electric hand mixer for this step). Refrigerate until needed. Note: The Creme Mousseline should be used the same day.
- Close to serving time, slice the pastry shells in half horizontally – if there is any uncooked dough in the middle, take that out. Pipe the Creme Mousseline using a star shaped nozzle into the hollow centre of the shell. Place the top half of the pastry shell lightly over top and dust with confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) and serve. Note: Don’t leave the filled pastry for too long as the Creme Mousseline may seep into the pastry and make it soft. If you have any left-overs, you will need to refrigerate).
Pâte à choux: BperBiscotto blog by Annamaria
Crème mousseline: Oh la vache! blog by Luca Marchiori
Praliné: La cuisine de Bernard blog by Bernard
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting