For the recipe: scroll down
Recently, reminiscing about the movie Julie and Julia, which is about a struggling cubicle worker who decides to execute a complete cooking book, I felt the need to get into cooking and baking again. Especially my baking skills feel a bit rusty. I guess it’s been quite some years since I really baked a lot, something for which I was known and feared 😉
With the big “Patisserie!” (this link goes to a Dutch version, but it also exists in French and English) on my lap, a recipe book exclusively on baking, I dreamt of all the delicacies that were waiting on me to be put in the oven! Not sure what to take, I presented some options to my bf and we agreed to my first challenge. But then I accidentally flipped over the page and he saw the recipe and screamed: “Paris-Breeeeest”! In the end the choice was easy.
Every day a new experience
To tell the truth, I have never tasted this pastry, and had no idea what the ingredients where like, but with that enthusiasm, it was hard to go for something else. Then my bf told me the story from his early teaching days, his first year of adult work. He taught in a secondary school and it was quite hard, his classes weren’t prepared yet and he had to put in a lot of work to make it work. So after class he often went to the local patisserie, that is a pastry shop, and he got himself one or two Paris-Brest pastries, in which he indulged once back in his rented room.
I think we all have had these kind of experiences when we just started working, or if you still need to start your work-life, you’ll probably find your kind of personal comfort food too! For me it were chocolate croissants with an energy drink before I gave my classes. And when I worked at the tourist office, it was a basis Dr Oetker Hawaiian pizza. Not a lot of taste, but always predictable and comforting.
The other day, I went to do some groceries and I started with the Paris-Brest. At certain moments it felt like hell, baking this pastry, because I had to redo the batter three times. In the end I decided to combine two recipes and get the best from it. You can find the reworked, final and rather fool-proof recipe below. Don’t forget to watch my rather chaotic and non-instructive video on the process!
Some history on the “Paris-Brest” pastry
This more than 100 years old pastry is a celebration of …. Bikes! The form is actually a reference to the wheels of a bike and the recipe was invented for a cycling race which went from, you can guess it: Paris to Brest (and back). There is a wide variety on the Paris-Brest pastry, including versions without hazelnut or with adding hard and liquid caramel. They all seem pretty inviting to me!
Advice on making puff pastry
Making the puff pastry is quite a delicate matter even if the ingredients are quite simple. The magic happens completely in the process. You have to prepare the batter on a stove and the ingredients are heated while mixing. But if you put the eggs to fast in the mixture, it will just be a failure. Also, adding too many eggs is not a good idea. That were some of my mistakes in the first two attempts. I think the first two stages are a bit gross, in a sense that you create a flaky mixture of water and butter. This mixture always shifts.
You shouldn’t be put off when you see this, because after adding the flour, the texture changes quickly. It is like a magic ball, the one you may have gotten as a child if you were very sweet during a holiday. You lick the magic ball candy and the layers beneath reveal, different colours every time, with which the colour of your tongue also changed! I remember that often there were some grain-like textures in it. But that could have been caused by holding on to that candy for too long too! Back to the pastry.
Once you added the flour, you’re going to have to put in the eggs. You can only do that after the batter has formed a firm ball in your saucepan. As long as you don’t have that ball, no use of adding the eggs, because there is no saving the batter later on.
For adding the eggs, I recommend using a spatula or a special mixing stick, not a whisk. I think this also made an important difference. If you’d use whisk the consistency of the batter could fall apart. So, stick to using the right tools. With some tools, you can of course improvise. If recipes ask you to use a standing mixer, like a Kitchenaid, no need to run to the nearest shop and make this big investment. I found out quite some times that just reorganising your time can help. You can mix with a normal electric mixer too. It will be more work though. And you’ll have to pay more attention to what you’re doing when.
After adding the eggs, the batter is ready and you just have to put it on a tray. When baking, I prefer using silicon materials, because you can reuse them. You don’t need an endless supply of baking paper and with good care they last for years. It is also a lot less messy than greasing an oven tray.
Make sure you pre-heated the oven on the right temperature before starting. In my first two attempts, I had to preheat on 180°C and with the other recipe it was 200°C. As the second recipe was a success, go for the 200°C.
To pipe the batter, my ultimate advice is to use two piping bags. As you can see in my video, I first tried it with one, reusable (cheap-ass) bag, but it broke. If you put the batter in a bag and then slip it in another, it is also very easy to change the nozzles!
Advice on making the filling
The filling is a mixture of three different creams. The first is a crème pâtissière extra, which is comparable to vanilla pudding, but the more classy version. The second is a buttery cream that resembles the cream that you get in certain rather heavy pastries, like petit fours. The last cream, the hazelnut praline paste is a bought paste of hazelnuts. I couldn’t find this in my local stores, so I got the high end Nutella version. It a spread for bread, but it contains at least 30% of hazelnut paste, the highest amount hazelnut (without chocolate) I could find.
You definitely have to make the crème pâtissière extra first, as it needs to cool down. The recipe says you should put it in a plastic foil, but when I’ll remake this recipe, I would definitely put it in a normal bowl with a large surface to spread it out and then put some foil on top of it. The plastic foil is to prevent the crème to form a harder, dry layer. The recipe is rather easy and it is crazy delicious, also as a separate treat that you could serve in little pots with a biscuit.
A warning from an experienced failure
Watch out when you are making the buttercream, you’ll have to make a hot sugary syrup. Always put safety first and make sure you don’t burn your hand as I did. If you are in the unfortunate event to experience a similar accident: put out the fire or remove the pot from the stove (with gloves) so the syrup and the pot can’t get any hotter and eventually burn and make the situation worse. Remove any possible other dangerous objects while taking care of your burn. You’ll see in my video that I removed the whisk from the pan. If I didn’t, I could have gotten a second burn. We don’t want that to happen. After you secured the place: water. Water, water, water. Get your burn under a stream of tepid to cold water to stop the burning. You’ll have to do this for 20 minutes. If you use too cold water, you could get a different kind of burn, so make sure it is somewhere in between cold and tepid. When you think it was enough, because you’re bored, you will get bored, add another five minutes of water. And ask someone to entertain you. If the burn is bigger than a 2 euro piece, or it touches the face, cover it and go to the nearest hospital for urgent care. Not sure what degree of burn you’re dealing with? Check the internet (this is a well-documented site in Dutch and French, if you don’t speak these languages, use google translate) and compare to pictures, go to the pharmacist to let it get checked or go to your doctor. I guess I’m a bit of an obsessed person when it comes to fire safety. My bf often has to endure my fire-trainings too. But you can never be prepared enough when it comes to these kind of situations.
Time to start baking!
Before all, enjoy the activity. It is key to homebaking. And when you’re done, “dégustez sans moderation” (taste without any moderation 😉) Also, share your experiences with puff pastry in the comments! Check my other dessert recipes too!
Download the pdf: