Bake up a delectable French Paris-Brest recipe to celebrate the famous French bike race! With a ring of puff pastry filled with chocolate pastry cream, it will get you hooked on pate a choux desserts.
Our last January French Fridays with Dorie recipe assignment was a famous French dessert, the Paris-Brest. Named for a bicycle race which was held every 4 years from 1891-1951…from Paris to Brest and back. This dessert was served all across France during the race since the shape of the pastry ring resembled a bike tire.
The ring was made from pate a choux, or cream puff batter, and was split and filled with whipped or pastry cream after it was baked. To entice the picky hubby, I filled mine with chocolate pastry cream…and did not add the chopped candied almonds to the filling. He actually ate some walnut chocolate mousse this week (faux nut allergy be damned!)…but I don’t think his palate had evolved enough to enjoy even the smallest chunks of nuts. I piped out a few cream puffs with the leftover choux and filled those with a bit of the pastry cream….just in case the sparse sprinkling of almonds scared him off.
Tips for Making a Pate a Choux Dessert
I grew up watching and helping my mom make lots and lots of cream puffs made with pate a choux batter. As helpers, my sisters and I would get the pleasure of scooping out the insides of the puffs…and sampling every bite of those innards so nothing went to waste.
Here are a couple tips when making choux pastry.
- Did you know that there are certain ratios you must follow? According to Michael Rhulman, the egg and liquid volumes must be equal. In Dorie’s recipe we had 4 eggs (1 cup/8 ounces) and 1/2 cup water plus 1/2 cup whole milk (1 cup/8 ounces). And half as much flour and butter (1 cup flour =4.5 ounces and 1 stick butter = 4 ounces). Check. Check.
- We added a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of sugar since this was a dessert recipe.
- When mixing in the flour, continue to stir for an extra minute or two after the flour is incorporated. It takes a bit of muscle to stir in the eggs, so you can pull out your electric mixer if you’d like. Make sure to stir for at least a minute after the last egg is incorporated….the batter should be satiny.
- For the best rise, start at a high temp, 425º, then decrease the temp after 15 minutes or so. Underbaking will cause your Paris-Brest to deflate…make sure it is a deep golden brown and firm before removing your puff from the oven.
Tips for Making a Paris-Brest
Besides using a chocolate instead of a vanilla pastry cream, and omitting the nuts in the filling, the only other tweak I made to Dorie’s recipe was to bake the pastry inside the ring of an 8-inch springform pan. My fellow Dorista, Mary, has picked up on my perfectionist tendencies, and this helped ensure a round result.
This is my second time making this dessert. The first time was to honor a foodie friend who lost her battle against myleodysplastic syndrome. A group of us baked recipes from her blog in her memory. I made a white chocolate whipped cream to fill my pastry ring. It is a very similar Paris-Brest recipe and that’s what I’m sharing below.
A few tips from Epicurious and Dorie for making this dessert ahead of time:
- Choux ring can be baked 8 hours ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then kept, loosely covered with foil , at room temperature.
- The cooled ring can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 week. It will need to be thawed, in its wrapping, then recrisped in a 350º oven for 10 minutes, cooled then filled.
- Pastry cream can be made 3 days ahead of time. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and whisk before using.
- Paris-Brest can be assembled 2 hours before serving and kept at cool room temperature.
This recipe can be found in Dorie’s cookbook, Around My French Table. The publishers have asked us not to print the recipes which have not been shared on-line, but feel free to check out the link to my previous attempt below. If you love this recipe, you’ll find much more inspiration from all my Dessert Recipes.
Pâté à Choux
- 1 cup water
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
Whipped Cream Filling
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- pinch salt
- Extra confectioners sugar for dusting
White Chocolate Buttercream (I used half a batch):
- 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
- 4 eggs whites
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Combine water, butter, and ¼ tsp salt in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, add flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough and pulls away from sides of pan, 1-2 minutes. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, allow dough to cool 5 minutes, then vigorously beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated.
- Place pâté à choux in a piping bag with a 1" tip (or Ziploc bag with a little piece of the corner cut off) and pipe a 1" rope into an 8" circle. Pipe another 1" rope inside the second one, being sure they touch. Finally pipe another 1" ring on top of where the other two rings meet.
- Mix beaten egg with 1/4 tsp salt and brush on pastry ring. Sprinkle on slivered almonds and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and continue baking another 30 minutes. Turn off oven and open the door. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Cut a few slits in the side of the pastry to allow steam to escape and let cool to room temperature.
- Whip cream with confectioners sugar and salt until stiff peaks form.
- Or melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, gently in the microwave…use 15-30 second intervals, stirring till melted. Cool to room temperature.
- Combine the egg whites and sugar in bowl of mixer. Place bowl over pot of simmering water so that the water comes a third of the way up the bowl. Whisk the egg whites till just hot to the touch, about 1-2 minutes.
- Use mixer on high to whip the eggs till thick and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Turn mixer speed to medium and add butter by tablespoon, making sure butter is mixed in before adding the next tablespoon. Add the chocolate and vanilla and mix till smooth. If the icing is too runny, refrigerate briefly till it thickens.
- Using a sharp serrated knife, split the pastry crosswise. Lift off the top and fill with the whipped cream or white chocolate buttercream. Replace top and gently press. Not too much. You don't want all the filling to come out. Dust top with confectioners sugar and serve. Serves 8.
Adapted from Becky Shauberger Turner, AKA Decolady
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 570Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 278mgSodium: 356mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 1gSugar: 34gProtein: 12g