Paris-Brest: A Classic French Pastry [From History To Recipes]

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Paris-Brest is a French dessert with a choux pastry base, filled with hazelnut praline mousseline cream and topped with toasted almonds. It's named after the Paris-Brest cycle race, taking place in France since 1891.

Initially created in 1910 by Louis Durand, patisserie chef at Maison Adam in Paris, it was designed to look like a bicycle wheel to celebrate the race. Instead, it became an instant hit and had been going strong ever since. But, of course, you don't need to make the pastry look like a wheel for your friends and family at home – though if you want to give it a go, watch our video below!

It's easy to make, too! You can use premade choux pastry shells from the bakery. If you're feeling extra ambitious, make your own pâte à choux dough. Then you can pipe it into circles on a baking sheet using a pastry tip.

 

Meaning of Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest is a French pastry made from choux pastry with a filling of praline buttercream. It was created in 1910 to celebrate the Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race. The combination of the round shape, representing a wheel, and the praline flavoring, originating from Nantes (formerly a significant producer of pralines), reflect this origin.

  • The Paris-Brest has been described as a "glorified doughnut," consisting of a circle of choux pastry split horizontally and filled with praline buttercream. The top half is then sprinkled with flaked almonds and powdered sugar.
  • Although it bears some similarity to the doughnut and éclair, the Paris-Brest is not sweet like these pastries but has a more subtle taste.

 

Taste of Paris-Brest

Paris-Brest is a dessert with a light, creamy filling and a light, crispy exterior. It is composed of two elements:

  • Meringue, which is made from eggs
  • And pastry cream, which is made from eggs and milk

However, the pastry cream used to fill Paris-Brest is not your average pastry cream. It's whipped! The cream used in Paris-Brest is called Chantilly cream (the same thing you use for fruit tarts).

  • Choux pastry is light, airy, and crisp, with a slight chew from the pastry. Praline pastry cream is nutty, sweet, and creamy. The combination of the two makes for a textural and flavor experience unlike any other.

Don't feel intimidated if you've never worked with choux pastry before. It's simpler than it looks, and it's going to taste good no matter what. You'll love this recipe!

 

Paris-Brest is composed of...

Paris-Brest is a French dessert and it is made of choux pastry, a light dough that can be piped into any shape (think cream puffs), and filled with praline-flavored cream.

The dough is made by boiling water and butter together, then adding flour and mixing it until it forms a smooth dough ball. Then eggs are beaten into the mixture until it becomes smooth and shiny. Finally, it's piped into a circle on a baking sheet and baked until golden brown.

  • While it bakes, prepare a vanilla pastry cream flavored with praline paste (made from caramelized hazelnuts). Once the pastry has cooled completely (room temperature), cut it in half horizontally; fill it with pastry cream, then put the top back on so you have a whole pastry again. Then cover the entire pastry with powdered sugar or whipped cream.
  • Two things: its texture and its taste. The flour or cornstarch creates a silky, smooth surface that you'll find in all kinds of desserts, from fruit tarts to éclairs to chocolate mousse pie (coming soon!). It also has an intense vanilla flavor that perfectly complements the rest of the dessert.

 

Is Paris-Brest is like pastry?

It's kind of like a giant éclair, but with a different filling and, in some cases, a different flavor.

Traditionally, Paris-Brest is made with choux pastry — the hollow pastry used for cream puffs and éclairs. First, the choux pastry is baked into a ring (bicycle wheels inspired the shape) and then sliced in half horizontally. Next, it's filled with praline mousseline cream (praline buttercream with ground hazelnuts added).

It's finished with caramelized slivered almonds on top.

 

Paris-Brest is made of choux

Paris-Brest is a classic French pastry consisting of a circle of choux pastry topped with a hazelnut praline flavored cream.

According to legend, the pastry was created by Louis Durand, a pâtissier from Maisons-Laffitte, France. The first Paris-Brest was made to homage to the Paris-to-Brest bike race. The circular shape of the dessert was intended to represent the wheel of a bicycle.

  • The recipe combines two traditionally French desserts: pâte à choux and praliné (hazelnut praline paste).
  • A disk of choux pastry is split into two or three layers and filled with praliné-flavored buttercream or crème mousseline.
  • It is then glazed with fondant icing, caramelized hazelnuts or almonds, and sometimes chocolate chips or other decorations are added on top.

So yes! Paris-Brest is made of choux!

 

Paris-Brest can be frozen

Yes. You can freeze the Paris-Brest for up to 3 months. For best results, freeze in a freezer bag or other airtight container, then remove and thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.

If you prefer warm and fresh pastries, we recommend eating the Paris-Brest within about 12 hours of baking.

  • Usually, the French pastry called Paris-Brest is light and airy and can be eaten right after baking. However, I wondered if it could be made ahead of time and frozen.
  • I froze the plain Paris-Brests, and they were perfect, but they did not slice easily, even after thawing. The solution was to fill them with whipped cream before freezing. They were still delicious after being frozen for a month.

 

Paris-Brest History classic french food

 

Fillings for Paris-Brest

By now, you've probably fallen in love with Paris-Brest, the classic French pastry that combines a flaky choux ring filled with a creamy hazelnut praline filling. It's perfect for breakfast, dessert, and everything in between.

But what if you have some extra praline filling left over? You could make another Paris-Brest. Or you could use it to fill something else. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Filling cream puffs
  • Filling eclairs (omit the chocolate glaze)
  • Decorating cakes, such as this pistachio cake
  • Making homemade ice cream

There are three fillings for Paris-Brest. The first is praline paste, also called frangipane, a mixture of almond flour, butter, and sugar. The second is a whipped cream filling, making sense because it's traditionally piped in a ring shape to look like a wheel. The third is pastry cream.

I'm going with pastry cream because I think it's the best thing in the world, but if you have another favorite, go for it!

 

How to make fillings for Paris-Brest

The filling for Paris-Brest can be anything from simple pastry cream to a ganache, but I'm going with an almond creme patissiere.

To make the filling:

  • Start by making pastry cream.
  • Whisk together milk, flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt in a pan.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook while stirring until thickened (1 minute or so).
  • Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks and vanilla until smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; place the bowl over an ice bath to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Now on to the creme patissiere, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with cornstarch in a bowl and whisk until combined, then add eggs and whisk until well blended.

  1. Add milk, butter, almond extract, and lemon zest to pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk is at a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for one minute, constantly stirring as not to burn the bottom of the pot.
  2. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes; strain through a fine-mesh sieve into cooled pastry cream mixture; stir until well combined.

You can decorate your Paris-Brest with chopped nuts or slivered almonds, sugar pearls, or other decorations of your choice. You can also dust it with confectioner's sugar or add a chocolate sauce on top.

 

How long can we keep Paris-Brest?

The Paris-Brest is best to eat the day it's made, but that doesn't mean you can't make it ahead.

The choux pastry will soften as it sits, so if time allows, hold off on filling and glazing until shortly before serving. But if you must make it a day or two ahead of time no worries, it’ll still taste fantastic.

 

Pistachio Paris Brest

Paris Brest is a dessert made of choux pastry and filled with praline cream. The name Paris Brest came from a bicycle race in Paris to the city of Brest and back.

This recipe uses pistachio as the flavor for both the choux pastry and the praline cream filling.

I used pistachio paste to flavor this Paris Brest. Pistachio paste can be found at specialty food stores or online. If you cannot find pistachio paste, you can make your own by blending about 1 cup (130 grams) pistachios that have been roasted and cooled with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil in a food processor until smooth.

 

Basic Paris Brest Pistachio

Paris Brest pistachio patisserie is a classic French pastry. It is made of pate choux, filled with pistachio praline cream, and topped with an icing sugar glaze. Although the pate choux is dough similar to eclairs, it's a basic recipe that is easy to make. If you have a tea party, this would be the perfect dessert to have, along with chai tea or Turkish coffee.

  • Pistachio Praline Cream

Praline is a confection made of caramelized nuts and sugar. There are a few variations, but my favorite is nuts and cane sugar without any cream or butter. It's common in French patisserie to combine praline and whipped cream to fill pastries like Paris Brest, choux, eclairs, and more.

I'm using pistachios instead of almonds or hazelnuts because I love pistachios! The color is so pretty that you don't even need to add food coloring to the pastry cream, but feel free to use it if you want an even greener color.

 

The popularity of Paris Brest

There's a reason that the Paris Brest is one of the most popular and iconic of all French pastries.

  • This simple combination of choux pastry, whipped cream, and praline is just as beloved in France today as it was when it was first created in 1910.
  • The Paris Brest was initially invented to tribute to a French bicycle race between Paris and Brest. But, as with many of the great classics, it is thought that Louis Durand, a pastry chef from Maisons-Laffitte, created the pastry to celebrate the race's finish in his town.
  • The wheel shape that we know today is said to represent the wheel of the bicycle and symbolize a wedding ring.

 

Tips and Tricks for Making Paris-Brest

The list of ingredients in a Paris-Brest recipe is pretty standard: sugar, butter, flour, eggs. But what's the secret to the perfect choux pastry? How can you achieve those beautiful rings of pâte à choux? And what's the best way to fill it? Here are some tips and tricks to help you master this classic French dessert.

  1. When to Bake Your Pâte à Choux

While most pâte à choux recipes instruct you to bake the dough immediately after piping it onto the baking sheet, another technique will give you a more uniform shape and result in a crisper final product. After conducting your dough into rings, use a wet finger to smooth out any pointy bits (these tend to burn). Then cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap or a silicone lid and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking.

  1. How to Pipe Your Pâte à Choux

To pipe your rings of pâte à choux, first-line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Then, one at a time, hold the piping bag vertically about 1 inch above one of the prepared baking sheets and pipe a circle about 2 inches in diameter.

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