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