The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest. This beautiful pastry is a fairly new entry in the French Pâtisserie Pantheon. The recipe was developed in 1910 by Louis Durand, a pastry chef of Maisons-Lafitte, to commemorate the Paris-Brest bicycle race. The circular shape, made with pâte à choux, is representative of a wheel. The dessert is usually cut in half, filled with an almond and hazelnut flavored crème mousseline, decorated with slivered almond and powdered sugar. Not only a delicious dessert but a stunning one too, which requires patience and a firm hand!

For this challenge, all Daring Bakers had to make the following from scratch: the pâte à choux, the crème mousseline to fill the Paris-Brest and the praliné which can be flavoured with any nut like macadamia, pistachios or pecans. The only restriction is on shaping as the Paris-Brest can only be circular in shape. This is not my first attempt at making this famous French pastry; I had prior experience with the pâte à choux and the crème mousseline when I baked Paris-Brest at home to celebrate the purchase of my beloved Honda Fit. It was still exciting to try making it a second time along with my Daring Bakers community, preparing the praliné from scratch in true Daring Bakers style.

PARIS BREST

Ingredients:

For the Pâte à Choux

1/3 cup (80 ml) water

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (100 ml) whole milk

1/3 teaspoon (2 gm) kitchen salt

1 teaspoon (4 gm) caster sugar

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) cold butter

3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons (200 ml) (3.5 oz) (100 gm) cake flour

3 medium eggs, room temperature, beaten

Two handfuls of slivered almonds

Egg for the brushing

For the Praliné

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole almonds

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole hazelnuts

6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80 gm) caster sugar

1 tablespoon (15 ml) water

For the Crème Mousseline

2 egg yolks

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk

¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (55 gm) caster (superfine) sugar

3 tablespoon (45 ml) (2/3 oz) (20 gm) cake flour, sieved

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) ( (4.4 oz) (125 gm) butter

3 oz (80 gm) praline

1 vanilla pod, sliced open length wise

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350° F/180° C/gas mark 4. In a nonstick 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. Sift the flour.

  • Add the flour in one shot to the boiling liquid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula. Cook dough on a very low heat.
  • Cook for a few minutes until the dough becomes firm and smooth. It must detach from the bottom of the pan easily.

  • If you have a standup mixer pour the mixture into its bowl. Beat on low speed for a few minutes until it cools down.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well on medium speed. Before adding the next egg make sure that it is well blended.

  • If you do not have a standup mixer, mix the eggs directly in the pan after allowing the dough to cool down slightly.
  • Work the egg with a wooden spatula until well incorporated before adding the next one. The dough should be smooth.

  • Cover the baking sheets with baking paper. Trace some circles of 4¾ -inches (12 cm) to help you out piping the circles.
  • Use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch plain nozzle and pipe two circles, the outer one of the diameter of the circle you drew.

  • Pipe a third circle on top, using the star-shaped nozzle. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
  • Bake in a moderate oven 350°F/180° C/gas mark 4 for about 23-25 minutes until golden brown, with a uniform color.

  • To get rid of any moisture in the oven keep the door slightly open so that dough dries out completely during baking.
  • For the praliné, put the sugar into a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add water and this sugar syrup bring to a boil.

  • When the sugar reaches 250°F/121° C, add all the nuts. Mix well with a wooden spoon to coat all the nuts in sugar.
  • The sugar will start to crystallize again. Continue to stir. The sugar will melt a second time, this time caramelizing.

  • Once all the nuts caramelize, remove the pan from the heat. Pour entire contents of the pan on a heat-resistant mat.
  • Let it cool completely. Break the praline into smaller pieces and grind it well with a mixer until it forms a thick paste.

  • To make the crème mousseline, bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod in a small saucepan. Cool for 10 minutes.
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become white. Add the flour and whisk until all mixed through.

  • Mix half of the milk in the egg until uniform. Pour into a pan and put on medium heat. Cook until the cream thickens
  • Stir cream continuously. When thick transfer into a bowl and cover with cling film touching the cream. Leave to cool.

  • In a bowl, mix the softened butter with the praliné. Add to the cooled cream until it forms a homogeneous mixture.
  • After the baked Paris-Brest have cooled completely, slice them into halves and place adjacent halves on a wire rack.

  • Pipe a generous amount of crème mousseline on the lower halves and top with the upper parts of the Paris-Brest.
  • Dust the assembled pastry with confectioner’s sugar and top with toasted almond flakes. Makes 6 small Paris-Brest.

November 2014 Challenge: Paris-Brest

It was by pure chance that I came across a jar of St Aubin 1819 molasses at Le Bois Cheri restaurant boutique during an impromptu visit. This viscous syrup used to be readily available from sugar cane factories as a byproduct of the sugar industry. Richly endowed with vitamins and minerals due to its unrefined nature, molasses make a wonderful addition to homemade cookies. These lovely sugar-coated cookies studded with dried cranberries, from In Katrina’s Kitchen, perfectly bring out the pungent bittersweet note of natural molasses, making them deliciously soft and chewy. And that’s only a prelude to my Christmas baking…

CRANBERRY MOLASSES COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup molasses

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius. In a bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.

  • Scrape bowl prior to each new addition. Add molasses and egg and beat again. Mixture may be lumpy.

  • Add baking soda, spices and flour. Mix until smooth. Add cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon.

  • Form 1 inch balls. Roll them in sugar and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  • Space the cookies 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 10-11 minutes until they turn golden but still soft to touch.

  • Let cookies rest for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Makes roughly 3 dozen cookies.

Cranberry & Molasses

This week I’ve been following Rick Stein, a famous British chef, as he goes on exploring the different cuisines around India in search of the perfect curry. What makes a good curry? Sensual spicy aromas or thick, creamy sauces? Rich, dark dals or crispy fried street snacks? Rick takes his viewers on a journey through India to unlock the secrets of these complex and diverse flavours through his TV show, Rick Stein’s India. His travels take him to the heart of Indian cooking through both long-held traditions and modern techniques of food preparation.

He uncovers recipes for fragrant kormas, delicate spiced fish and slow-cooked biryanis, all the while gathering ideas and inspiration for his own take on the perfect curry. In the misdt of all the spices and dishes heavily laden with desi ghee, he introduces to his viewers a delicate sweet dish, flavoured with saffron and rosewater. Nimish, a beautifully creamy dessert from Lucknow – the land of Nawabs - is a refined treat said to be better than kulfi, the common Indian ice cream. Traditionally, nimish is served covered with chopped pistachios and bits of edible silver leaf.

NIMISH

Ingredients:

450g/1lb double cream

50g/1¾oz icing sugar

1 teaspoon rosewater

Pinch saffron strands

100ml/3½fl oz milk

Few chopped pistachios

Edible silver leaf

Method:

  • Warm milk and soak saffron strands for 15 minutes till well infused. Whip cream in a bowl till soft peaks just start to form.

  • It is important not to over-whisk. Sift in the icing sugar, then add the rosewater and the cooled saffron milk plus the strands.

  • Whisk together for a minute until it is smooth and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Pour gently into small serving bowls.

  • Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Decorate with sliced pistachios and edible silver leaf and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Fit for a Nawab

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PrerrnaMirchi
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