Paris-Brest Re-Visited

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The French word écoeurant is used to describe when one eats something that feels heavy, or is sickly to eat. The Paris-Brest for some people is écoeurant. Is it the wall of stiffened butter cream piped generously around a sponge ring which gives that gagging reflex on the first bite?
Though, it seems the French are divided on this one, for some, it’s their all time favourite. Maybe, it’s the roasted hazelnut flavour reminiscent of childhood winter vacations that gets so many French sentimental over just the idea of a Paris-Brest. When I mentioned on Tuesday morning to my Frenchman that I would be making this at school on Wednesday, by Tuesday evening I had an order from 20 of his co-workers for their beloved Paris-Brest. Surprised and cynical as I was, even I knew that what we were about to make would be a recipe more evolved, totally edible and perhaps a real money maker.

Chef has been saying for quite some time the Paris-Brest “il va être à la nouvelle mode”, or “on va revisiter”, meaning it’s coming back or being revisited. Often in class we are on the subject of fashionable pastries, because at the moment we are in a world craze for macarons. And now, in Paris, it’s eclairs. In pastry, whenever we say  we ‘revisit’ something, it means to bring back in mode but evolved to the tastes of today. La mode of today is less butter and less heavy creams in general, and opting to push through more natural flavours, as well as, giving desserts more streamlined clean shapes. So, going back to what Chef said about the Paris-Brest being revisited. In our class recipe, we have certainly done that. There is less butter and what we use is of high quality. The creme patissiere we do is famously light but not light in taste. I may not have mentioned this before but the milk we use for all our recipes is in fact Demi-Crème (half fat milk). And then of course there is the principal flavour of the Paris-Brest, a high quality hazelnut/almond paste.

I believe Chef has found a nice balance with this recipe in terms of the texture, form and taste. So, let’s revisit the Paris-Brest. The ingredients list I’ve posted below the photos.

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Pate a Choux
Water, 250g
Salt, 5g
Sugar, 5g
Butter, 125g
Flour, 150g
Eggs, 220g

Creme Patissiere
Milk (Demi-Creme), 500g
Eggs, 100g
Granulated sugar, 100g
Flour, 25g
Custard powder (or cornstarch), 25g
Vanilla Bean 1 (Note: store always in the freezer)
Note: We have NO EGG YOLKS, NO BUTTER, in this Creme Patissiere recipe. Why? Less fatty.

Paris-Brest Creme Mousseline
Creme Patissiere (take above), 500g
Butter, 200g (soften in microwave to smooth creamy texture)
Almonds/Hazelnut praline, 200g

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Synopsis: So, what went wrong? (because something always goes wrong in patisserie even the smallest of details).
For the Pate a Choux: I followed the above ingredients list and my Pate a Choux did not turn out as I hoped, it was too liquidy. The reason for this, the temperature of the eggs were cold plus add a cold bowl, so instead of thickening my flour/butter/water mixture, it liquified it.  In this case, I should have reduced the amount of eggs to meet the temperature of the mixture. When it came to piping the Pate a Choux it didn’t have body to stand up like a good soldier. As a result, coming out of the oven, instead of a high fat sponge, I got a thin low ring of sponge. Temperature of utensils, bowls, machines, even the room can affect the outcome of your final product even if you follow the ingredients list exactly. But, that’s patisserie for you = a relationship you have to work at all your life… but I’m told it gets easier. 

A couple of students felt we could have added more hazelnut puree. But, that kind of thing is always going to be about individual tastes, and will most probably be the most challenging part of our careers…. satisfying our customers.

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