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This cake was created in 1910 by pastry chef Louis Durand, upon request from the organiser of a bicycle race between Paris and Brest. The cake has a large ring shape representing bicycle wheels.
Nowadays, the legendary Paris-Brest can be found in all French pâtisseries and is one of the most popular desserts in the country.
Before starting this Paris-Brest recipe, organise all the necessary ingredients.
For the choux pastry: There are two versions: one with water, the other with water and milk. Both recipes work, although I have a preference for the water and milk alternative. The method is identical for both versions.
Place the water (or water and milk), butter and salt in a saucepan on the stove.
Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and pour all the flour at once.
Stir with a wooden spatula, making sure that lumps do not form.
The resulting dough is called 'panada'. Dry off the panada on the heat, stirring with a wooden spatula, until the paste comes away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Incorporate one egg (or the beaten eggs in 4 or 5 batches)...
... using a wooden spoon.
One by one, incorporate the remaining eggs.
The choux pastry is now ready. For the water and milk version, if you find the texture too firm, add a little cold milk until soft.
Transfer the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
Pipe the choux pastry in the shape of a crown.
Arrange two strings of paste next to each other...
... and finally a third string...
... overlapping the first two.
Using a pastry brush, glaze the surface of the pastry with egg yolk.
Sprinkle with flaked almonds...
... over the whole surface. You can replace the almond flakes with slivered almonds. Just before baking, sprinkle with icing sugar.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4) and bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
The paste should rise and take a nice golden colour.
When the cooking is complete, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar with a small amount of water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the temperature reaches 121°C. I recommend using a digital thermometer. (If you don't own one, simply dip a fork in boiling sugar. If you see strings forming when you take the fork out, it means that the sugar is ready.)
Clarify the eggs one by one. Place the egg yolks in the food mixer recipient. When the sugar is ready, gradually pour it over the eggs, with the mixer on low speed. Make sure the egg yolks are at room temperature.
Once the sugar is completely combined with the egg yolks, continue beating on high speed until the mixture has cooled down.
When the preparation has cooled down...
... gradually incorporate the softened butter (cut into cubes).
Continue beating until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous cream. Add the praline paste last. The amount varies according to the intensity you like.
Using a serrated knife, cut the crown in half crosswise.
Scoop the praliné butter cream into a piping bag fitted with a large fluted nozzle.
Use a dough scraper for this operation.
Pipe the butter cream on the lower part of the crown...
... forming big swirls.
On top of the butter cream, place the upper part of the crown (the one coated with flaked almonds). Leave in the fridge to set.
Using a shaker, drizzle icing sugar over the Paris-Brest cake. Transfer on a serving dish. Bon appétit!
If you want extra indulgence to this delicious dessert:
1 - Place praline paste in a piping bag and pipe a small amount in the centre of each swirl of crème au beurre.
2 - Before placing the pastry cap over the praline crème au beurre, add chunks of caramelized almonds. Make a caramel with 40 grams of sugar then add a handful of shelled almonds and stir until evenly coated. Transfer onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and leave to cool, then chop with a knife.
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First, the pâte à choux. The dough is way too dry. 250ml of water is not enough for 200g of flour. It should be at least a 2:1 ratio when it comes to wet and dry ingredients. Measuring in ml vs g will always yield a different result. Stick to one unit of measurement.
Second, the temperature is a problem. Baking it at 180C (356 F) will not yield a perfectly hollow and deep golden-brown choux. It does become hollow, but very doughy on the inside and it gets a light golden color, not the deep amber it's supposed to have.
Third, the praliné crème au beurre: "Combine sugar with a small amount of water." Really? Without telling us how much water to add?
To others reading: For the syrup you need 20% water per total weight of the sugar. In this recipe, that should be 50g water for 250g of sugar. That's not just some water, it is a significant amount. If you add less, you will have a thick caramel that will not pour easily onto your yolks. If you add more, you run the risk of creating something akin to a simple syrup that will make your crème au beurre too runny.
This recipe's writing needs to be developed further and to be more precise. It is too willy-nilly for products that need to follow a rigorous process.