This Paris-Brest choux is another Daring Bakers‘ challenge.
I have made Paris-Brest before on a few occasions and to follow the original recipe is to produce one large ring-shaped choux filled, decorated simply with toasted, flaked almonds and filled with crème mousseline. It’s typically large enough that it can be sliced to serve a number of people. So, for a change I thought I’d do individual choux and add a new flavour in.
I find crème mousseline (also sometimes known as German buttercream) a bit much when it’s the main filling. It’s wonderful with fruit or when there’s a little less of it, but in a Paris-Brest there’s a massive amount of cream for the amounty of pastry. So, I thought I’d I try a crème diplomate as a change – I also opted for a chocolate topping (more like an eclair) than the traditional icing sugar and flaked almonds.
Crème mousseline is a 4 : 2 : 1 mix of pastry cream : butter : hazelnut paste. Just reading it makes it sound heavy and artery-clogging! There are plenty of recipes online if you prefer to make this.
Crème diplomate is a 2 : 1 (typically) mix of pastry cream to whipped double cream. Not exactly slimline in itself, but it feels lighter in the mouth to me. Maybe I’m making that up/it’s wishful thinking? Anyway, whichever you choose to use this is not going to be a dieter’s dessert.
Background to the Paris-Brest
The Paris-Brest is another of those pastries dreamt up by a very canny self-marketing Parisien Chef Patissier. In this instance, it was Louis Durand, in 1910 who chose to commemorate the Paris to Brest and back-to-Paris cycle race by creating a ‘bicycle wheel’ in choux pastry and filling it with crème mousseline. It certainly drew attention, ensured his name became synonymous with the delicacy and firmly placed it as a staple of French patisseries ever since. I guess it worked out well for him! The history of cooking is littered with French chefs trying to create the next best thing and get their name known – some are known for their overall contributions (like Carême onwards though Soyer, Lenôtre, Desfontaines, to today’s Parisien Chefs like Michalak and Felder) and some like Durand for one particular success. Clearly celebrity cheffery is not a new phenomenom in France!
If you can read French (or are adept at working out Google translate) you may like to view this website on the Durand patisserie in Paris. The Patisserie is still going and this link takes you to some information about Louis and his creation, and includes some simply fabulous photos of Louis, his wife and the original facade of the shop and you can browse the rest of the site to see their current pastries.
This makes about 8 small choux (about 10 cm across)
- baking paper or parchment
- baking trays
- fine sieve
- plastic flexible spatula
- piping bag and large round nozzle
- a circular object about 10 cm in diameter – like a side plate or pan lid just to draw round
Ingredients – choux
This choux recipe (best I’ve tried) is taken from ‘Patisserie’ by Murielle Valette, printed by Constable 2013, ISBN 978-1-9089-7413-6
- Water – 250 ml
- Unsalted butter, diced – 100 g
- Caster suger – 12 g
- Salt – 5 g
- Strong white bread flour – 125 g
- Eggs, medium – 4
Method – for the choux
- Bring the water, salt, butter and sugar to a boil until all are disolved together
- Taking the pan off the heat tip all the flour in quickly and mix until it comes together into a ball
- Put the pan back on the heat and stir for a about half a minute to dry the pastry out a bit further
- Put the mix into a large bowl and start stirring in the eggs one at a time. It takes a while to mix in the egg fully
- Pause at egg number four – as you made not need the whole egg. It’s easier to add a fraction of an egg if you beat it first to mix yolk and white. Add a little of this last egg at a time – you’re looking for a consistency which is heavy and just above dropping – in that the paste should slowly slide down the back of a spatula but not actually get anywhere near dropping off the end
- It’s now ready to put in a piping bag and use
- Mark out circles on the baking paper with the lid/plate you’re using as a template – how many you get on a baking tray will depend on its size. You need to leave about 5 cm between the circles so you will probably get four on a typical baking tray
- Turn over the baking paper so thedrawn circles are underneath and just show through (even with permanent markers the ink may come off – as I can testify to!)
- Heat your oven to 190 C fan / 200 C conventional
- Pipe the paste in a ring so that the outside of the ring matches the lines of the circle (ie pipe inside). Repeat to use all the mixture up
- Wet the back of a teaspoon and smooth the paste where the ends join
- Sprinkle the baking paper the choux rings are on with a little water and put the trays in the oven.
- Cook them for around 15 mins and then turn down the oven to 155 C fan / 165 conventional for at least another 15 minutes. Don’t open the oven door for at least this half an hour period or the choux will sag (the first 15 mins is enough to cook it and let it rise and the second 15 mins will dry the pastry out further). Unfortuantely, although cooking choux isn’t as hard as some say, judging when it’s done does take a bit of practice. If in doubt, turn the oven off and leave them in there for anouther 15 mins. Choux should be a medium-to-dark brown (a bit darker than most other pastries).
- When ready take them out, leave them on the trays and leave to cool
Ingredients – crème diplomate
For the crème patisserie
This will give you more than you need but it will freeze.
- Full fat milk (the richer the better, for example Channel Islands gold top) – 500 ml
- Caster sugar – 90 g
- Egg yolks, large – 4
- Plain flour – 20 g
- Cornflour – 20 g
- Butter, unsalted and cubed – 40 g
- Vanilla pod, split – 1 or vanilla paste – 1 tspn
For the passionfruit crème diplomate
- Whipped double cream – 300 ml
- Passion fruits – 3
Method – to create the crème diplomate
Prepare the crème patisserie
- Bring the milk and spilt vanilla pod/vanilla paste to a boil in a small but heavy-bottomed pan
- Remove from the heat
- In a large bowl, whisk together everything else except the butter
- When the milk has cooled a bit, tip a little of the milk into the egg and flour mixture and mix it in (tipping a small amount in first will stop you getting scrambled eggs, which is likely to happen if you lob it all in in one go)
- when this is mix, gently pour in the rest and combine
- Tip it all back in the pan and return the pan back to the heat
- Bring to just under boiling while stirring constantly
- When it’s nice and thick, remove from the heat
- Pass it through a sieve into the bowl again
- Put the cubes of butter in the bowl and stir until it’s totally incorporated
- Set aside to cool and when cooled enough store in the fridge until needed
Prepare the passionfruit cream
- Whip the double cream until really thick
- Scoop out the flesh of the passion fruits into the cream – you can sieve out the seeds if you don’t like them but personally I think they add a nice texture and the black seeds look good in the cream
- Mix the fruit into the double cream
Combining the two creams into crème diplomate
- When you’re ready to combine (ie everything is chilled), just mix the crème patisserie with the double cream and fruit – use a spatula and mix until combined
- Chill until ready to use
- Freeze any leftover
Ingredients – for the toppings
- Chocolate (dark or milk – your preference) – 100 g
- Various toppings – I used pearl sugar, flaked almonds and chopped pink pralines but you could use anything you like/have to hand
Building the Paris-Brest
- Using a sharp serrated knife (I used my bread knife after sharpening it) and slice each choux in half
- Melt the chocolate – being careful to temper it to a nice shine (see my tempering temperatures blog)
- Dip each of the TOP halves of the choux in the chocolate
- Leave to start setting – when the chocolate is still just just the melty side of set sprinkle the toppings over
- Leave to cool completely until the chocolate is hard
- Spoon the crème diplomate into a piping bag and pipe onto the BOTTOM halves of the choux and place the chocolate covered halves on top of the cream