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A New Classic in Parisian Pastry {CtBF}

What do you get when you cross two classic French pâte à choux pastries?  The first classic is the round Paris-Brest, shaped to resemble a bicycle wheel (in honor of a bicycle race between Paris and Brest), and filled with praline-flavored pastry cream.  The second class is the éclair, an oblong pastry filled with pastry cream and topped with icing.  Well, according to David Lebovitz in his book My Paris Kitchen, his answer is the Paris-Paris, this week’s challenge for Cook the Book Fridays.  A Paris-Paris, invented by David, is an éclair filled with hazelnut praline-flavored cream and iced with a chocolate topping.  Rather than commemorating a bicycle race, this pastry represents the straight path between David’s home and his favorite pâtisserie.

We’ve had a stretch of rather simple projects over the past few months, so this is one of the more complicated recipes the group has recently tackled.  However, as with many recipes, when broken down into different steps and spread out to fill available pockets of time, it is manageable and not so intimidating.

First step was the hazelnut praline.  If you can get over any fear you have of molten sugar, it’s quite simple.  Melt the sugar and add coarsely chopped hazelnuts and a big pinch of salt.  Then spread it out to cool. I forgot to chop them, but that was fine.  The praline was delicious!  I couldn’t help from nibbling on it every time I noticed the container sitting on the counter waiting for the next step.

Next was the pastry cream.  I didn’t want to make the full recipe (10-12 pastries), but David mentioned that while the pâte à choux made a dozen éclairs, there was only enough filling for 10.  So, I made two-thirds of the pastry cream recipe and one third of the pâte à choux.  I always forget how easy it is to make the pastry cream.  It came together in just a few minutes.

The third component is the pâte à choux which is something I only make for these recipe challenges.  Every time I do, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. I’ll admit that desserts based on this pastry aren’t my favorites, but I have enjoyed savory versions such as gougères and goat cheese cream puffs.

When I’ve made pâte à choux before, whole milk was the liquid called for.  I was intrigued that this recipe used water.  The version wasn’t noticeably different than previous efforts, browned beautifully in the oven, and its ingredient list moves it up on the list of things I can make from what’s on hand (I seldom have milk).

To create the praline-flavored filling, first you pulse the hazelnut praline in the food processor to grind it up.  I ate a few last pieces before I ground up the rest.  If you remember I made two-thirds of the pastry cream.  I figured that I ate one-third of the praline so the proportions were unchanged.  Some of the pastry cream is combined with the ground candied nuts to make a paste before smooshing it into the remaining pastry cream.  Making the praline filling is fun!

One last component before putting it all together.  Cocoa powder and confectioners sugar are mixed with hot water to make a shiny glaze.

The last step is assembly.  Once the éclairs are cooled, cut them in half, but leave the top and bottom attached, fill it with the praline pastry cream, and ice the top with chocolate glaze.  They look rather impressive.  Put them in the fridge to chill.  You only have to wait an hour before digging in.

I made four Paris-Paris pastries and have some praline pastry cream to enjoy with a spoon.  I thought these were nice, though I plan to share the leftovers.  Guess who says he’s not interested in eating one.

My takeaways:  I doubt I’ll make this recipe again.  Not enough in-house interest.  However, I’ll definitely make the hazelnut praline again, perhaps to include in my annual holiday treat packages.  And, I’ll add some savory pastries on my “to-do” list so I can revisit the pâte à choux.

If you want to challenge yourself, you’ll find the recipe for Paris-Paris on page 285 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  To see the results of my Cook the Book Fridays friends, follow their links here.

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Inspirations In Ink: Teatime in Paris!

TeatimeInParisI love tea and I love Paris. It wasn’t until I started reading through the new book “Teatime in Paris!” that I received from its author Jill Colonna that I was introduced to the teatime custom in France. I knew about British teatime, but I have always thought of France as a coffee drinking nation, never realizing their culture included a time and place for tea. In France, this late afternoon treat is known as le goûter.

You know how you seldom see a fat French woman? Jill explains that this because the France is not a nation big on snacking. Eating is done at mealtime, but teatime is a secret “little meal” time: a break before dinner, when you can enjoy a cup of tea with a small pastry, guilt-free.

On the one hand, “Teatime in Paris” is a cookbook that offers recipes for an assortment of Parisian teatime pastries: éclairs, macarons, tartlets, cookies and more. In each recipe, Jill explains each step in a clear voice with helpful photographs, erasing the intimidation that some of the seemingly more complicated recipes induce.   Tea pairing suggestions accompany each recipe. I love it!

In addition, this book is an armchair tour book. As you explore the recipes in the book, you also go on a virtual tour of patisseries in Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement with Jill leading the way. She tells you about the pastry shops that inspire the recipes shared in the book, allowing you to dream of your own Parisian teatime.

The book start off with the simplest teatime treats: madeleines, financiers, cookies, and other assorted treats including other little cakes, ice cream, and crepes. The Mini Tigrés, tiny chocolate-speckled cakes topped with a dab of ganache, are adorable. And who can resist anything with speculoos, so why not Speculoos Ice Cream?

Next, you’re introduced to pastries made from choux dough. Choux pastry is the base for éclairs and other sorts of cream puffs. Each one, offering a different combination of pastry shapes, filling, and topping, range from the classic to the imaginative. For one thing, you can make waffles with leftover choux dough. And with lemon verbena growing in my herb garden, I plan to try the Lemon and Verbena Mini Éclairs.

This brings you to a chapter of tartlets (my favorite kind of French treat). Again, different flavors of pastry crust are combined with different fillings for a mouthwatering selection of tarts, both individually and full sized. There are several recipes to make use of the best of summer’s fruit, but I look forward to ripe figs in the fall for Fast Fig, Almond, and Lavender Tart where puff pastry is topped with frangipane, sliced figs, and dried lavender blossoms.

Have you always wanted to try to make millefeuille, those impressive towers of flaky pastry sandwiched between pastry cream, at home? Jill lets us in on a secret. It’s easy to make millefeuille at home if you start with frozen puff pastry! Different flavors of pastry cream and maybe some fruit and you can easily enjoy homemade millefeuille.

Jill has a blog (and an earlier book) called “Mad about Macarons”. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the chapter on macarons is the most extensive. It also inspires confidence. Again, Jill’s instructions are accompanied by step by step photos to guide you through making your own macarons in your kitchen that rival those on offer at a Parisian pastry shop. There are also ideas to vary the shape to make “Maclairs” (in the shape of éclairs) or even to imitate a Paris-Brest with its traditional tire shape.

Ingredients in this book are measured by weight, which is the French way. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, go buy yourself a digital scale. Measurements are so much more predictable when the ingredients are weighed, and there are fewer dirty dishes.

Diamond Biscuits

Diamond Biscuits

I baked a batch of Diamond Biscuits (Diamants), a “slice-and-bake” version of shortbread. The cookie dough log is rolled in granulated sugar which adds the sparkle that gives these their name. Two or three of cookies with a cup of tea make a perfect pick-me-up in the late afternoon at my own Parisian teatime, at home. You can try them too.  One tip: if you chill them longer than 25 minutes, you might need to let them sit at room temperature for a little while before rolling the log in sugar so that the dough is soft enough for the sugar to stick.  In this case, additional baking time might also be required.  Go by the color, not the time.

Diamond Biscuits (Diamants)
Recipe from “Teatime in Paris!” by Jill Colonna

125 g butter, softened
45 g granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
150 g all-purpose flour

Mix the butter and sugar until light and creamy, either using a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer with the flat (paddle) beater. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the flour. Keep mixing until the batter forms into a ball. (At this stage you could add a different flavor such as cinnamon.)

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, ensuring you roll it as round as possible into a sausage, to about 3 cm (1¼”) in diameter. Roll in cling film and chill in the fridge for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/360F.

Once chilled, roll in granulated sugar, then cut into 1 cm-thick (approx 3/8″) discs. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat and bake for 8 minutes or until golden.

Serve with Lady Grey tea or Darjeeling (the champagne of teas)

Shaping Tip: To keep your sausage shape round in the fridge, without a flat side, roll in cling film and place it on top of a plate covered in rice.

 

Each time I page through this book, I savor my little visit to Paris, and I’m filled with inspiration.

A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 4 plates (out of 5)

I received this book from Jill Colonna for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.