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Paris-Brest Tested Recipe

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Paris Brest Recipe

Besides the Tour de France, every four years France holds a 1200 kilometer bicycle race that goes from Paris to Brest and back to Paris (commonly known as "PBP"). This race first took place in 1891 and it is the oldest cycling event still being run. The same year that the race began, a pastry chef along the bicycle route decided to make a celebration cake called Paris-Brest (pronounced pah-ree-brehst), to honor the race. It consisted of a circle of choux pastry, filled with whipped cream, that was meant to resemble a bicycle wheel.

To make a Paris Brest you begin with a large ring of choux pastry. Choux pastry or pate choux is a pastry where the flour is added to a boiled mixture of butter and water (like a roux) and then this mixture is cooked until it forms a smooth ball of dough. The dough is then placed in your mixer and beaten until lukewarm. Beaten eggs are slowly added to the dough and you continue beating until you have a smooth shiny thick paste. This paste in then placed in a pastry bag and piped in a large ring shape. The pastry is brushed with an egg wash, sprinkled with shaved almonds and baked. It is first baked at a high temperature so the pastry will rise quickly (leaving a hollow center) and to set the structure of the Paris Brest. Then the temperature is reduced and it is baked further to allow the outside of the shell to become firm, while at the same time allowing the inside of the pastry to dry out. I like to cut a small slit into the side of the pastry at the end of baking to make sure it has dried out sufficiently, because if the inside dough is still very wet, the choux pastry will deflate upon cooling. But don't worry if the shell still has a small amount of moist dough as this can simply be removed before filling the Paris Brest with cream.

Once the Paris Brest has cooled, it is cut in half horizontally and filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream. The cream can be plain or flavored. For this recipe I have simply used softly whipped cream but you could use one of the flavored whipped creams on the site. During berry season I often add a few raspberries or cut up strawberries to the cream. The finishing touch is to dust the top of the pastry with powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar. In order to keep the shell crisp, fill with the cream shortly before serving. If you prefer a softer shell, assemble the Paris Brest a few hours before serving. Just cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw an eight inch (20 cm) circle on the parchment paper to use as a guide when piping the choux pastry.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside. 

Place the butter, milk, and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, quickly stir in the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 3 to 4 minutes). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough. Once the dough is lukewarm, start adding the lightly beaten eggs, in small additions, and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick shiny paste. (Note: To test to see if the dough is the right consistency; pinch off about a teaspoon of the dough. Then with your thumb and index finger slowly pull the dough apart. The dough should stretch, not break. If it breaks, beat in a little more egg.)

Transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a large plain tip (#4). Pipe a 1 inch (2.54 cm) thick ring of dough just inside the 8 inch (20 cm) circle that is drawn on the parchment paper. Pipe another 1 inch (2.54 cm) thick ring inside the first ring, making sure the rings of dough are touching. Pipe a final ring of dough on top, along the center seam between the first two rings of dough. Then, with moistened fingertips, gently smooth the rings of dough. In a small cup, beat together the egg and salt for the glaze. With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the top and sides of the dough. Sprinkle with the shaved almonds. 

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Bake for a further 35 to 45 minutes or until the Paris Brest is a golden brown color, puffed, and crisp. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shell dry out for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and finish cooling on a wire rack.

For whipped cream:  In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, whip the mixture until soft peaks form. 

To Assemble:  Split the pastry shell in half horizontally and remove any wet pieces of dough. Then spoon (or pipe) the whipped cream into the hollow center of the shell. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar.

Makes one large 8 inch (20 cm) Paris Brest.

Resources:

Longbotham, Lori. 'Luscious Creamy Desserts'. Chronicle Books. San Francisco: 2008.

Maree, Aaron. 'Patisserie'. Angus & Robertson. New York: 1994.

Yard, Sherry. 'The Secrets of Baking'. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York: 2003.

Choux Pastry:

1 cup (135 grams) all purpose flour or bread flour

1 teaspoon granulated white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons) (85 grams) unsalted butter

1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk

1/2 cup (120 ml) water

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Egg Wash Glaze:

1 large egg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (50 grams) shaved almonds

Whipped Cream:

1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

Garnish:

Powdered (Confectioners or icing) sugar

 

 
 
     
 

 

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