Featuring choux pastry, creamy praline mousseline and crunchy candied hazelnuts, the Paris-Brest was originally created in the late 1800s to commemorate a bicycle race between Paris and the city of Brest—hence the bicycle wheel shape. Today, the pastry is a bestselling staple at Edmonton’s Duchess Bake Shop and though the recipe contains several parts, the result is well worth the effort.
The praline mousseline calls for praline paste, which is available in specialty baking stores but if you can’t find it, you can make it yourself with a recipe online or substitute it for Nutella. Also expect double the amount of candied hazelnuts—but you can keep the leftovers for snacking or for topping ice cream or another dessert. Plain roasted hazelnuts can also be used if you wish to skip the candying.
- Yield: 5 pastries
1 batch pâte à choux, baked into ring shapes that have been topped with sliced almonds (see recipe below)
Icing sugar, for finishing
1 cup hazelnuts, blanched and peeled
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp water
2 tsp butter, melted
¼ cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
⅓ cup + 2 tbsp praline paste
½ cup whipping cream
Pâte à Choux
¼ cup + 2 tbsp skim milk
¼ cup + 2 tbsp water
¼ cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
To prepare the hazelnuts:
Heat oven to 350°F. Spread out nuts on a small baking sheet and heat until well warmed (about 5 minutes). Keep warm while you cook the sugar.
In a small saucepan just large enough to hold the nuts, combine sugar and water and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches 242°F. Make sure nuts are warm, then add them to the cooked sugar. (If the nuts are not warm enough the sugar will seize.) Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar has crystallized onto the nuts. They will look dry and white.
Transfer nuts to a larger saucepan placed over low heat. Stir constantly until caramelized. If the nuts seem to be caramelizing too quickly, remove from heat briefly while continuing to stir. The nuts should be shiny and dark caramel in colour. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until nuts are well coated.
Immediately pour the hot nuts onto a baking sheet and separate them out with a wooden spoon to prevent them from sticking together. The nuts will be very hot so be careful not to touch them.
Once nuts are cool, break up any large chunks with your hands.
To make the praline mousseline:
Begin by making buttercream. Heat milk in a saucepan until scalding. While milk is heating, whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk. If you add the hot milk too quickly, the eggs will curdle and your buttercream will come out lumpy.
Transfer mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat. Whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 180°F.
Using a fine mesh strainer, immediately strain mixture into a stand mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed and fitted with the whisk attachment, gradually add cold butter cubes to the hot mixture. As you add the butter, the mixture will thicken and start to look fluffy and shiny. Once all the butter has been added, turn the speed up to medium-high and continue to mix until very fluffy. If mixture looks runny after adding all the butter, use an ice bath to cool down the bowl, then mix again until fluffy.
Turn mixer back down to low. Add the praline paste to the buttercream in two parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. In a separate stand mixer bowl, whip the whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. Using a spatula, fold the whipped cream into the buttercream to finish the praline mousseline. At this point, it can be kept the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for up to two weeks.
To assemble the Paris-Brests:
Use a serrated bread knife to gently slice the baked choux rings in half horizontally, like a bagel. Dust the top halves of the rings with icing sugar and set aside.
Make sure that your praline mousseline is stiff enough to pipe. If it’s too soft, refrigerate it for 10 to 15 minutes to stiffen it up a little; if it cools down too much, whip it up again in the mixer using a paddle attachment.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (#829) with the praline mousseline. For each Paris–Brest, place the bottom half of a choux ring on a cake turntable or a flat plate. Starting on one edge of the ring, pipe on loops of buttercream while turning the ring. Press six caramelized hazelnuts around the outside of the piped mousseline. Gently top with the other half of the ring.
Paris-Brests are best eaten within six hours of assembly. They will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator, though the choux will go a bit soft.
Pâte à Choux
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place skim milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to low, add flour all at once, and begin stirring with a flat wooden spoon. The dough will form a mass and start pulling away from the sides of the pan. Stir vigorously without stopping for 4 to 5 minutes. The dough will darken a bit in colour and slightly dry out, which is what you want, as otherwise it may be too runny to pipe.
Immediately transfer dough into a stand mixer bowl. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add eggs one at time, mixing well between each addition. Using a small amount of the pâte à choux, glue down the corners of the parchment paper to the baking sheet. This will prevent the parchment from slipping around while you’re piping your dough.
Trace five 3-inch circles onto your parchment paper, spaced about 2 inches apart. (We use a glass for tracing.) Fit a piping bag with a large open star tip (#828 or #829). Fill bag with the pâte à choux. Using the drawn circles as a guide, pipe dough on the circles to form rings.
Sprinkle slivered almonds onto the rings and gently tap the baking sheet to shake away any excess. Bake immediately for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking. After 30 minutes, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon to let the built-up steam escape and slightly dry out the choux. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until you can feel that the outside of the dough has crisped up.
Once baked, choux pastries should be filled and served over the next 2 days. They can also be frozen for up to 2 months. To reheat, place them frozen in the oven at 350°F, heat until warmed through and crispy again (6 to 8 minutes), and let cool before filling.