As promised, this week’s recipe is the choux masterpiece, Paris-Brest. It was created in the 19th century to commemorate one of the earliest cycling races , which went from Paris and back via the city of Brest, in the Brittany, or Bretagne, region of Northwest France.
The first cycling race, Bordeaux-Paris, took place in 1891. The Paris- Brest et Retour, later known as the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) was staged that same year. The Bordeaux race fell out of favor in the 1980’s due to competition from the Giro D’Italia and the Vuelta a España, but the PBP is still run every 5 years as an amateur individual cycling event. The Tour de France was organized as a publicity event, and hopes were high that it would surpass the popularity of the PBP.
Let’s honor the history of cycling, and all the clean athletes, by indulging in this super-cool and historically luscious dessert.
- 2 cups water
- 5 oz. (1[1/4] stick) butter
- 1 TB. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1[2/3] cup all-purpose flour
- 7 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 TB. cream
- [1/2 ] cup sliced almonds
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- [1/2] cup Nutella or giandujia (hazelnut milk-chocolate)
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray. In a large sauce pan combine water, butter, sugar, salt, and bring to a boil. At the boil add flour and stir vigorously with a sturdy spoon for at least 3 minutes, until all the flour is absorbed and the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, blending each one thoroughly before adding the next. When all the eggs are in add cheese and mix well.
2. Using a large pastry bag with a large plain tip (or a big zipper bag with the corner cut out), pipe the choux in 2 touching concentric circles about 8 inches in diameter. Next, pipe another circle on top, in the seam of the first two circles. Pipe the choux out thick. It should resemble a thick bike tire at this stage. Make an egg wash with egg yolk and cream, brush lightly on top of the circle, then sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake at 400˚F until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325˚F and cook until firm and dark brown, about 30 more minutes. Cool completely, then slice in half horizontally.
3. Whip cream to soft peaks. You may use an electric mixer if you have one, but you must finish it off by hand because nutty fat mixed with heavy cream is easily broken. Add the Nutella or melted and cooled giandujia to the softly whipped cream, and continue to whip by hand until stiff. If it starts to look cottage-cheesy, stop whipping. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a decorative star tip. Pipe cream onto the bottom half of the choux circle. Use a big, swooping, swirling motion to completely cover the base of the choux ring. Place the top of the choux ring on the cream, and dust with powdered sugar. Keep the Paris-Brest chilled until you are ready to serve.
As I am writing this, I am watching a replay of the final stage. The peloton is circling the Place de la Concord, and then it is over for another year. This great Athletic event is worth a look if you are unfamiliar. It is the perfect sport for foodies. After all, it’s France!