Paris-Brest with a Twist!
Paris-Brest is a classic choux pastry invented more than a century back to commemorate the famous cycling event in France. Apart from Tour de France, the 1200 km Paris-Brest- Paris route is one of the world’s oldest and arguably the most celebrated cycling event in the world. Traditionally, the Paris-Brest is typically round, formed by one or several choux rings compounded together. In 2009, the reputed French patissier Philippe Conticini of La Pâtisserie des Rèves recreated this famous confection and created quite a sensation amongst the French culinary circle. Literally reinventing the wheel!
For this month’s Aspiring Bakers, I thought it would apt to give the conventional Paris-Brest a “twist”to suit the theme!
Started by cooking the wet ingredients in a small pot and then adding the dry ingredients and give it a good stir to get everything all mixed together!
Choux pastry is quite easy to make but there are several things to keep in mind. One needs to keep a watchful eye over the wet ingredients as they are being cooked. For me, there are two crucial moments in this, the combination of the wet and dry ingredients, and later on, the incorporation of the egg yolks to form the batter. Traditionally, this is all done by hand (from what I read in a Japanese cookbook). But the recipe I followed uses a mixer. Can’t imagine the deep sigh of relief I heaved when I read that!
The almond flakes need to be soaked in water and then pat dry using a tea towel or kitchen napkins. This is something I read from the Japanese cookbook and helps to prevent the almond flakes from browning too much.
The baking process is divided into 2 parts. The batter rings are first baked at a high temperature to allow the pastry to rise. The temperature is subsequently lowered to allow the core to cook thoroughly through while preventing the surface from browning too much.
Upon cooling, the choux ring is sliced longtudinally into 2 and laced with strawberry halves. Korean strawberries are in season now so they are perfect!
Crème pâtissière a la nutella was then piped over generously. Traditional versions uses praline powder incorporated into the piping cream but this is too laborious to make. Ok ok, I’m just lazy! Anyway nutella goes quite well with it! Yumz…
Carefully replace the top portion and dusted with icing sugar and its done!
Revealing the insides. The sweet-sour tang of the strawberries went very well with the smooth and luscious nutella cream and crunch from freshly baked choux pastry.
Thought the large heart-shaped choux tasted quite satisfactory, I wasn’t too pleased with its presentation. Something smaller and individually sized might be more manageable. Thus I baked one more batch of 4 puffs.
Free piping for the 4 smaller chouxs. Keeping fingers and toes crossed that they will stay in shape.
They turned out quite well. Wakata ne!
Sliced top half of a choux on a bed of strawberries.
More strawberry halves for the petite Paris-Brests!
Assemblage. Pardon the irregular piping!
Using vanilla crème pâtissière this time, Chef Daniel Tay’s recipe which proved very rewarding with the Raspberry Napoleon.
A very delightful mess!
Yet another layered in confection! Looks like this is my own personal theme this month!
- Dusted with icing sugar and its done!
With so much remaining choux batter, I baked some profiteroles shells and used the remaining filling to make some petits fours.
One bite size! One very large bite that is!
Recipe for the choux pastry, adapted from “Luscious Creamy Desserts” by Lori Longbotham with some modifications from a Japanese cookbook.
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 egg beaten for egg wash glazing
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 oF. Butter and flour a large baking sheet. Using a 9-inch cake pan as a guide, trace a circle on the baking sheet. (I used a heart shape print out instead). Cut a 1 inch opening at the bottom corner of a large self-sealing plastic bag; set aside. Pre-soak almond flakes and pat dry with clean kitchen towel.
- To make the choux pastry, bring milk, water, butter and salt to a boil in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, forming a ball. Transfer the mixture to a large deep bowl and beat with an electric mixture on high speed for a minute to cool slightly.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat on medium-high speed for 5 – 7 min, until the dough is smooth and dry-looking and has cooled to room temperature
- Spoon the dough into the plastic bag and squeeze it down to the corner with the opening. Using the tracing on the baking sheet as guide, pipe a 1-inch thick ring of dough just inside the circle. Pipe another 1-inch thick ring outside the first ring, making sure they are touching. Pipe a final ring on top, along the center seam between the first 2 rings, with the remaining dough. Glaze the ring with egg wash and with moistened fingers, gently smooth the dough rings. Sprinkle almond flakes generously over ring.
- Bake the ring for 20 min. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for another 25 more min or so until golden brown, puffed and crisp.
- Remove the ring from the oven and poke the sides in 12 places with a tooth pick and then bake for 15 min more. Transfer the ring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- With a long serrated knife, slice the ring horizontally in half. Carefully discard any wet uncooked dough in the centre. Spoon the cream into the bottom of the ring. (I piped in the pastry cream instead) Replace the top of the ring.
- Dust the ring with icing sugar and top with coarsely ground praline (I used almond instead which was added prior to baking). Serve immediately, cut into slices with a serrated knife.