paris-brest {ffwd}


Ambivalence. Dread. Fascination. Resignation. I’ll admit to a full range of emotions about this week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie: Paris-Brest. What is a Paris-Brest, you ask? It’s a special pastry that was created in honor of a bicycle race. How French! Every four years, the bicycle race is held between Paris and, you guessed it, Brest, a city in Brittany, in northwestern France. OK, that’s the etymology, but what is it? Reminiscent of a bicycle wheel, it’s a ring of choux pastry (the same dough as cream puffs) filled with an almondy pastry cream.

So why the emotional range? Well, even though I’ve made it before, and it’s challenging, but doable, pate a choux is not my favorite dough. Pastry cream? A little intimidating to make, though I think we’ve made it before for FFwD (éclairs?) Not my favorite, loads of calories, and Howard showed no interest in sharing. One concession was to “minify” (nod to Mardi). At her suggestion, I planned to make one small ring for me, form the remaining dough into cream puffs to freeze and save for later. I was further inspired when I saw Christy’s mini rings on Instagram, piped into and baked in mini-tart pans. I had a plan.

Mini Pate a choux

First, I set out to make the caramelized almonds that flavor the pastry cream. I didn’t have any whole blanched almonds, only slivered, which have a whole lot more surface area than whole ones. I decided to double the caramel to be sure to have enough coating. It worked out perfectly. Wow! Those caramelized almonds were delicious. We, Howard and I, could have nibbled on the whole batch. The almonds even sparked his interest enough that I varied my plan and made two rings so Howard could try Paris-Brest too.

Almond Praline: Next Year's Holiday Food Gifts?

Almond Praline: Next Year’s Holiday Food Gifts?

I didn’t have the right kind of pastry tip, so for piping my rings, I made do with a ziplock bag and scissors to cut off its corner. It worked great.

The mini pastry rings were so cute. The center of bottom filled in, but when I sliced it in half to fill, the top still had its hole. I removed most of the dough in the bottom half of the pastry ring, filled it with the pulverized caramelized almonds mixed into pastry cream, and put the other half on top. Then, we waited an hour for the Paris-Brest to chill. A sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar to dress it up before serving, and we had dessert.

Split to Fill

I will say that this is a gorgeous dessert. Certainly, it looked like it came from the closest patisserie, not my kitchen. As for how it tasted? It was as good as it looked, if you like this kind of thing. No matter how I try to spin it, custard just isn’t at the top of my list. However, it was a worthwhile experiment, and I impressed myself with a professional looking treat.

We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see what other Doristas thought of this recipe, check out their posts here.

Delicious Dessert


Posted on 31 January 2014, in Baking, French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I love how the Ps&Qs resulted in so much collaboration this week. (When is the last time we had 20+ entries on a recipe?)

    I am very impressed with Christy’s genius plan – it looks like it worked out beautifully for you.

    Stay warm! We might actually get above freezing today for the first time in a few weeks. Woo Hoo!!

  2. Not a big fan of the cream puff dough thingie either but I will have to get over that as I adored all the oohs and aahs this one delivered this week. Breaking it down into the steps made it rather easy. The almonds were so easy too. I will be making these for ice cream soon.

  3. I am glad you ended up making this and enjoying it! :) Making them small was good too! I didn’t do the almonds but we probably would have snacked on them as well.

  4. I thought this was a gorgeous dessert too. Yours looks great.

  5. Looks great! I almost went the freezer bag route too, but then I remembered I had a cookie decorating set that had star tips and a pastry bag. Great to know the other works as well! Isn’t it fun when one of the more challenging baking recipes works out?! ;-)

  6. Yay thanks for playing along this week and I am glad my minifying worked out for you! They look GREAT (and yes, like Cher, I loved the collaboration factor this week!)

  7. Gorgeous.. I love how all of the brests have their own personality. I wonder if they are reflective of the baker?

  8. I definitely like the mini Paris-Brests best – they’re so cute!

  9. I love a good Paris-Brest, especially when someone else makes it! Great job tackling this one again.

  10. Well, I think your pastries look wonderful. I made these long ago (at least I had a link to post), but they might be fun to make again – or at least those almonds!

  11. I also shared some dread with the thought of making this! It was all the steps it involved…even though I have made choux pastry many times! I was quite happy with the results, as was my Bunco group! Yours looks simply beautiful…so glad you enjoyed it! I happen to LOVE any kind of custard, creamy dessert! Happy weekend, Betsy!!

  12. I can’t wait to make this one! The reason I didn’t is mainly because I may have been the only one to eat it, and as you say it’s full of calories. I do love custardy cream puffs, so i am sure I will like this. Yours looks delicious!

  13. Betsy, I am so proud of you. If I had only thought of doing the Christy-rings, and then freezing the excess puffs, half the pastry cream and go whole-hog on the nuts, that would have worked. Soooooo, instead of waiting until this spring when I return to Aspen to make this dreamy dessert, I am making it this coming week in a mini-version. Maybe I will make gougeres with the extra dough. Yours looks amazing. Did Howard like it? You never said.

  14. Yeah, I actually think I would have liked it with whipped cream better…but Bill finally ate a slice tonight and thought it was pretty good (he had to remove all the almonds, though).

  15. Looks delicious, Betsy. Love the look of your little mini pastries. If I ever have the courage to try this again, I will definitely go with smaller ones. And as I LOVE custard (I think that I could have eaten that as a dessert on its own), I might even try it again.

  16. I had my doubts about making this and was surprised when it turned out as well as it did.
    I have a lot of work to do on perfecting the rings, but all in all it tasted darn good. Yours
    looks wonderful. Have a great weekend.

  17. It feels like we channelled each other this week! I felt the exact same way but in the end I liked it very much. The pastry cream on its own is nothing special but mixed with a praline butter is something out of this world!

  18. At first I was alone, I was petrified, then I read the P &Q’s and saw Mardi’s Instagram….Okay, well, maybe I will survive doesn’t really play into my comment other than I had the same reaction you did when I saw Paris Brest as our assignment and completely thought about skipping it. I’m so glad I didn’t – like you, I was only making it for myself and Sous Chef ended up loving it and eating almost all of them, along with the gougeres and mini-goat puffs! I will definitely make this again.

    Your mini-versions look so lovely! Bravo on your photos:)

  19. I love that you made the mini rings- a perfect portion! Yours turned out very well!

  20. What dedication! This was a lot of work for a dessert that isn’t your favorite. Your did come out beautifully.

  21. Betsy, yours really did turn out very professional looking. I loved the caramelized almonds too:) All in all this looks like a big success!

  22. Betsy, I love your mini version of the Paris-Brest – these individual pastries would be absolutely perfect for dinner guests too. My initial plan called for small sized pastries too but when I took a look at all my eager taste testers, I changed my mind. The pastry cream with the almonds sounds so good too and you are absolutely right, your Paris-Brest look like they came from a bakery – very pretty!

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