Disclaimer: This post was supposed be posted months ago, but I forgot it in the drafts folder, so here’s Paris Brest, just a little late.
This months Daring Baker’s challenge was paris brest. When first hearing that name I panicked slightly, mostly because french desserts are notoriously difficult. But then I read the description and realized that paris brest is essentially a circular cream puff. And you get to slice it in half rather than trying to fill it with a pastry bag (which is always the part I can never get right). Cream puffs aren’t actually that hard, in fact you can make them all in one pan. So I challenge anyone reading this post – don’t be scared of the cream puff, grab a pan and impress all your friends/family with this dessert!
Basic Cream Puff Recipe:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-5 large eggs
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place the water, milk and butter in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, remove from heat, dump in all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) and stir vigorously with a spoon until combined.
4. Return the mixture to medium heat and stir constantly for 4 minutes, until it starts looking like mashed potatoes.
5. Remove from heat.
6. Continue stirring until the dough cools to 180 degrees.
7. Add 4 of the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing each until fully incorporated. On the first egg add just a little bit to the dough. If it cooks, keep stirring the dough to cool it further (you do not want cooked egg bits in your dough).
8. Pinch 1 teaspoon of the dough between your fingers and pull your fingers apart. The dough should stretch between your fingers. If it breaks instead of stretching, add the last egg.
9. Put the dough in a large ziplock bag and cut the tip off.
10. Pipe circles 2 layers thick onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
11. Place the baking sheet onto an upper rack in the oven.
12. On the rack underneath the pan, place a large baking pan full of water.
13. Bake for 10 minutes.
14. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and rotate the baking sheet.
15. Prop the oven door open with a metal spoon and bake for another 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.
16. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
Once you have your pastries in the oven it’s time to start the cream. I discovered something on the day I made these – one cream is not like the other. Normally I don’t differentiate much between heavy cream and whipping cream, it’s only a few percentage of milk fat difference. However, on this day I’d purchased cream from Twin Brooks Farm, a local dairy in the area. I bought it mostly on a whim in the store – all of their stuff is in glass bottles and when I turned this bottle upside down to see how thick it was nothing moved. That’s how thick it was. I had to make a hole in the top layer with a knife to get anything out. Interestingly enough it didn’t really whip, but rather clotted almost like a precursor for butter. And it tastes nothing like what I normally think of as cream. So what to actually get out of this? If you can find it, buy cream from smaller farms with a higher milk fat content, it is totally worth it.
Making the pastry cream is really easy:
1 pint cream
1/2 package of vanilla pudding powder
1. Whip the cream into peaks
2. Fold in the pudding powder
3. Pipe or spoon into your pastry
I also garnished my paris brest with the last of the years fresh blueberries which were a wonderfully bright note against the sweet cream. The whole batch disappeared in less than an afternoon. Feel free to experiment with adding chopped nuts, other fruits, or a different flavoring to your filling. Bon appetit!