Monday, 26 November 2012

Paris Brest

The Paris Brest is a relatively simple French pastry treat made using a ring of choux pastry filled with a praline flavoured cream. Following the success of our Tarte Tatin, we have continued our education of pastry making by focusing on choux. In some ways this is a more simple kind of pastry because you don't need a delicate touch or certain technique when handling it. But because it is cooked twice, once in a pan and then in the oven, it is a slightly tricky process which relies on a certain level of concentration! Our effort was far from perfect but we think we know where we went wrong, so hopefully next time will be better. For now though, this was very tasty and did look the part.
Instead of the classic Paris Brest (almond flavoured) we wanted to add our own inspiration to this dessert. For the filling we chose to have a cinnamon flavour and we felt this would be best incorporated into a creme patisseriere. To add a little sweet and sour we then used an orange icing to drizzle over the final pastry. The combination of orange and cinnamon worked really well.

So here we go with the recipe. As mentioned, this attempt was not perfect. Creating perfect replicas of these French classics is pretty difficult! But I guess it is about learning from your mistakes and keep practicing. That said, this was by no means a disaster, and it was really tasty.

This will make one large pastry, about 7 or 8 inches across when finished.


For the pastry -
75ml water
75ml whole milk
50g butter
60g plain flour
2 eggs 
For the filling -
3 egg yolks
30g caster sugar
10g plain flour
2 tsp cornflour
250ml whole milk
half tsp cinnamon
a little icing sugar

The icing -
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
50g icing sugar


1. Start by making the pastry. Gently warm the water and milk and then add the butter. Warm until the butter is melted and a few bubbles appear.

2. Tip in the flour all in one go. Then start mixing with your wooden spoon! This will be quite hard on your arm but it important to keep mixing vigorously.

3. When the mixture has completely combined and forms a ball in the pan, it is done. Remove the pan from the heat. Next, you need to add the 2 eggs (whisk together first) but first the mixture must cool a little. You can speed this process along by continuing to mix with your spoon.

4. When the mixture has cooled, slowly add the eggs. You may not need all of the eggs so be careful. If you add to much egg the mixture will be too loose and not hold its shape when you pipe it out (this was where we went wrong!).

5. On a piece of baking paper draw a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Put your pastry into a piping bag and first pipe a circle just inside your circle on the baking paper. Then do another circle just inside this (make sure there are no gaps!). Finally, put a circle of pastry on top of the two that you have just piped.

6. Brush with egg yolk and then place in a preheated oven at 180C for 30mins. After 30mins turn down to 150C and cook until golden brown (about 15mins). One trick here is a to place a tin full of boiling water in the bottom of the oven during baking. The moisture will help the pastry form a crisp crust.

7. Next, prepare your filling. Warm the milk in a pan. In the meantime, mix the egg yolks and sugar together until fluffy. Then add the flour, mix and then the cornflour.

8. When the milk is just at boiling point add it to your egg mixture. Do this slowly and whisk constantly.

9. Return the mixture to the pan and cook until you reach a thick consistency. You need to get your wooden spoon out again and mix vigorously.

10. When thick, the custard needs to be cooled before it can be piped into your pastry. Pour it into a dish and then sprinkle with icing sugar to stop a skin forming on the top.

11. When cooled, slice the pastry in half and then pipe the creme patissiere on top of the bottom piece. Place the top layer on this and then drizzle with the orange icing.

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