The Paris-Brest is a French pastry, created in 1910 (in Maisons Laffitte, by the way) by a pâtissier named Louis Durand. He was inspired by the cycling race from Paris to Brest, which was inaugurated in 1891. The pastry is round to represent the wheel of a bicycle.
Although the Paris-Brest can be made up to 30 cm in diameter, it’s usually individually-sized, and made of puff pastry with a praline butter-cream filling, and is topped with almonds and confectioner sugar.
I got the recipe and know-how from the book “Les gâteaux classique de Christophe Felder.” As with all of the patisseries in the book, you will want to give yourself plenty of time because they are complicated. You should also take out 2 sticks of butter the night before so it’s nice and soft. The Paris Brest has four components to prepare, and six steps in all, and I will walk you through them.
STEP ONE: THE PATE A CHOUX
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease and flour your baking sheet. Then mark circles in the flour with a 7 centimetre round. Like so.
Melt 8 tablespoons of butter with a half-cup of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. When the butter has melted, pour 1 1/2 cup of flour in slowly –
whisking all the while until the dough has absorbed all the moisture. This recipe works perfectly with a gluten-free flour blend (store bought). Remove the dough from the flame, and add 6 eggs one by one, mixing energetically. The pictures only show half the recipe because the recipe I was following said it would make 18. It only made 8. So while the first batch was in the oven, I made a second.
Your dough looks like this.
Fill a pastry bag and use a 8mm tip – a large one with either a smooth opening, or one with teeth. Just don’t use a tip that’s closed in the form of a star. (There’s probably a professional word for that, isn’t there?) Follow the little circular paths you drew on the baking sheet as you form your Paris-Brests. You will need to cut the dough off of the tip each time you complete a circle, and the dough might have a tendency to dance around the floured surface a bit. Don’t mind the dough.
Brush an egg over your pastries and sprinkle slivered almonds over the top – shake the pan to get rid of excess almonds. (But don’t send your Paris-Brest flying into the sink).
Bake for about 25 minutes, and make sure you don’t open the oven for at least 15-20 minutes or the pastries won’t puff. The recipe says a “non-ventilated oven” and I did try that, but it just wasn’t cooking fast enough.
When they come out of the oven, set them on cooling racks.
STEP TWO: THE PASTRY CREAM
You need 20 cl whole milk (3/4 cup) that you set to heat in a saucepan over low heat. Make sure it’s whole milk – that’s important. Add a vanilla bean to the milk (or in a pinch 1/2 t vanilla extract). I compromised and used 1/4 t real vanilla seed powder. Don’t let the milk boil over.
In a separate bowl, put 2 egg yolks with 40 g sugar (1/4 cup), 20 gr corn starch (2 tablespoons), and whisk them together gently by hand.
Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, and whisk gently. Then strain that mixture back into the saucepan, removing any crust that had formed from the milk. Put it on high heat and stir it constantly without ceasing. (I forgot to strain it but that’s fine).
As soon as the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and add 1.5 tablespoons butter and mix. It happens really fast and stirring constantly is important, as is removing it right away from the heat. Here is my pastry cream:
Put it in a cool bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t touch air. Let it cool, and even freeze it for 15 minutes because you will need to add it to the buttercream and it should be very cold.
STEP THREE: THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
This is really just a sub-step. You need the Italian meringue to be able to complete the buttercream. I also want to confess that I doubled this portion of the recipe so there is more meringue to buttercream than the original recipe calls for. But I figured with the chocolate added later, it wouldn’t hurt to make it a bit lighter.
Heat 3 tablespoons of water with 1/2 cup of sugar. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature.
When it gets up to about 100° C, start beating your egg whites (2 large egg whites) with 3 tablespoons of sugar. At 118°C precisely, take the sugar water (which is now syrup) off the heat and start pouring it into the egg white as you mix. (This picture shows the last of the syrup being incorporated into the whites to form the meringue).
Set that aside because you’ll need to incorporate it into the buttercream mixture.
STEP FOUR: THE BUTTERCREAM
Now that the meringue is ready, put 3 egg yolks in the standing mixer bowl and mix it briefly. Believe it or not, you now have to repeat the sugar-water-syrup-making step. Except this time there is a greater proportion of water, which means it might take longer to form a syrup. Combine 1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon sugar with 1/4 cup minus 1/2 tablespoon of water.
I know it’s weird, but the French weigh everything, and I don’t dare alter the measures too much. (I’ve included the weights in the recipe box below if you prepare to measure things metrically).
When the syrup is at 118°C, pour the hot syrup over the yolks as the mixer is running).
(Thank goodness for my husband, who happened to be in the right place at the right time, and who grabbed the camera. I had completely forgotten about the pictures by this point). The yolk-syrup mixture might be a bit runny, but when you add your butter, it should be just fine.
Scrape the syrup from the sides of the mixing bowl before you add your butter.
Add a cup’s worth of butter to the yolks.
And then the merengue. You forgot about it, didn’t you? The meringue italienne? Time to add it now and mix it all together, giving a delightful airy consistency and lightly sweet taste.
STEP FIVE: CREATING THE PRALINE BUTTERCREAM
So the filling for your Paris-Brest is actually a combination of the buttercream, pastry cream, and a praline caramel. I found out after the fact that you can order this caramel, called praliné, on line, but since I didn’t know that, I bought chocolate praliné, which will work just as well. (FYI – Praline is a combination of almonds and hazelnuts). This is what I used:
So add 150 grams of “praliné” or melt the chocolate praliné just enough so it’s runny.
Add that and the pastry cream to the buttercream mixture. A reminder that the pastry cream should be very cold.
And then you have your praline mousse (mousseline praliné).
We’ll just pretend like mine is not lumpy. Put it in the pastry bag and refrigerate it for about 15 minutes or it will really be too runny. (But not more or you won’t be able to squeeze it out).
STEP SIX: ASSEMBLY
Take a long serrated knife, and gently cut your pastries in half like this. They don’t look like much, but wait ’til you add the cream.
Fill the Paris-Brest pastries.
And then put the appropriate “hat” on each one. 😉
Sprinkle confectioner sugar on top and stick them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. If you eat them as fast as you are tempted to do, they will fall apart. The buttercream needs to be firm.
And then … eat.
I suppose the only reason you might make something crazy like this is because a) you like a challenge. b) you’re not in France and you wish you were in France, or c) you think gluten-free people should be able to eat as well as their non-coeliac counterparts.
Whatever your reason for making the gluten-free Paris-Brest, Bon Appétit!
- Puff Pastry:
- 1 cup (250 grams) water
- 8T (110 grams) butter
- 1 t sugar
- ½ t salt
- 1.5 cup (140 grams) flour
- 6 eggs
- 1 egg to make it golden
- 100 grams slivered almonds
- Italian Merengue for the Buttercream:
- 1.5 T water (20 g)
- ¼ cup sugar (50 g)
- 1 large egg white, or 2 small (35 g)
- 1.5 T sugar to mix with egg whites (18 g)
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup + ½ T sugar (100 g)
- ¼ cup - (minus) ½ T water (50 g)
- 1 cup butter (225 g or 2 sticks)
- Then the Italian Merengue you made needs to go in.
- Pastry Cream:
- ¾ c (20 cl) whole milk
- 2 yolks
- 2 T (20 gr) corn starch
- ¼ c (40 gr) sugar
- 1.5 T (20 g) butter
- 150g Praliné
- Take out the 2 cups of butter and let it sit out overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C and grease and flour baking sheet. Make a circular pattern to mark your pastries.
- Melt water, butter, sugar and salt over low heat.
- Add flour into melted liquid bit by bit, whisking constantly until all moisture is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and add eggs one by one, stirring constantly.
- Put dough into pastry bag with an 8 mm decorating tip and form rounds.
- Brush egg on top and cover with slivered almonds.
- Bake 25 minutes without opening the oven.
- Step Two: The Italian Meringue
- Heat the water and sugar until it reaches 114°C.
- At that point start mixing the egg whites and sugar until stiff.
- When the water/sugar mix reaches 118°C exactly, take it off the heat and pour it slowly into the egg whites while they are mixing.
- Set aside.
- Step Three: The Buttercream
- Do the same thing with the larger amount of water and sugar - cook it until 118°C.
- Beat the egg yolks and add the sugar mix slowly until incorporated, and until the yolks start to form ribbons.
- On the side, beat the softened butter, and then add that to the yolks.
- Add the merengue and beat that in.
- Pastry Cream:
- Heat milk over gentle heat. Don't let it boil over.
- Whisk eggs, sugar and corn starch very gently.
- Pour hot milk and whisk again.
- Strain it back into the saucepan and cook on high heat until it thickens. Stir constantly!
- Remove from heat and add butter.
- Cover with saran wrap and let it cool.
- Take the very cold pastry cream and add the melted praliné chocolate (or the simple praliné), and add both to the buttercream.
- Cut the pastries in half and fill them with the praline buttercream.
- Sprinkle with confectioner sugar, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.