Are you the daring kind in the kitchen? I for sure am and this is why I love participating in the Daring Bakers’ Challenge every month! It challenges bakers everywhere with something unique every month and it’s helped me expand my knowledge and skills a great deal in the last few months. “The November Daring Bakers’ challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.” I did however drift away a little from the traditional Paris Brest and made a Paris Brest with whipped Caramel Chocolate Mousse and a Caramel drizzle on top.
Paris Brest is a French dessert made with Choux pastry and a praline mousseline filling. The pastry was first created in 1910 to commemorate the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race which began in 1891. The idea was for it to resemble a bicycle wheel, hence the circular shape of the dessert. The original recipe calls for a praline filling, but I ended up using a chocolate filling. No surprises there right? Honestly what actually happened was that I did make the praline filling first but it was so good we ended up just drizzling it on ice cream and didn’t have enough for the Paris-Brest filling! But fear not, I will be making it again and it will be featured in a super yummy blog post very soon, so stay tuned!
Choux pastry is a notoriously temperamental pastry. I’ve never really had any real trouble with it, although very occasionally it decides to turn out not so perfect. The circle for the Paris Brest didn’t come out as circular as I would have liked it to, probably because my choux pastry dough wasn’t as stiff as it needed to be to pipe out circles. It was still incredibly delicious though! I love the contrasting textures of the crunchy outside and the soft, moist, almost custard-like inside of this pastry. My mom often made Eclairs and Cream puffs for parties and celebratory occasions, so choux pastry is one of the first pastries I learned to make. A dough that is less stiff will still work great for Eclairs and Cream puffs (or Profiteroles), but a stiffer dough would certainly have worked better for this.
My inspiration for the chocolate filling came from a chocolate mousse that I absolutely adore – David Lebowitz’s Salted Chocolate Mousse. This chocolate mousse recipe is so good, I make it whenever the occasion calls for it, which for me is quite often! Too often, truth be told.
As for the topping, I first made Almond flakes to go on top (which is the traditional topping for Paris Brest), but just didn’t like it. It tasted a little too burnt for me. Next I thought about a simple dusting of icing sugar but apparently at some point in the last couple of weeks I had run out of icing sugar and didn’t even realize it until now! It was all good though, as I decided on a dry Caramel drizzle next and it turned out to be a great call as the crunch and the sweetness of the dry caramel drizzle worked beautifully in this dessert!
I have modified this recipe and increased the amount of flour that you will need a little, so that the dough will be stiffer than what I initially got. This will ensure that your Paris Brest will look neater than mine!
Paris Brest - Choux Pastry
- 8 ounces by weight of water
- 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4.2 ounces AP flour
- 3 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place the butter, salt, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat this on medium heat until the butter is melted and the water just starts to boil.
- Immediately add all the flour to the water (remove the saucepan from the heat for this), and with a wooden spoon quickly mix the flour into the water until all the water has been absorbed. Keep mixing until the dough comes off easily from the side and the bottom of the saucepan when mixed.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl.
- Using a hand mixer, beat in the eggs into the dough one at a time. The dough should become thick and glossy.
- Finally add the vanilla and mix it in.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Transfer the dough into two pastry bags - one with a large round tip (I used Wilton 2A) and another with a star tip (I used Wilton 195). See note 1 if you do not have these tips
- Using the round tipped bag, pipe a 5-6 inch diameter circle on the parchment paper. Remember to leave room between the circles as they do expand.
- Right on top of the piped circle, pipe another layer of the choux pastry with the round tip.
- On top of this, pipe a third layer of choux pastry with the star tip.
- Brush the top with beaten egg mix.
- Place the tray in the preheated oven and let it bake for about 10 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the choux pastry is nice and puffed up, golden brown on top and crisp to your touch.
- Remove from the oven and prick each pastry with a toothpick to let out the air.
- Let it cool to room temperature.
- With a serrated knife, cut the Paris Brest pastry in half carefully.
- Pipe the salted chocolate filling (recipe below) in the middle and place the top back on.
- Drizzle caramel (recipe below) carefully (this is going to be hot, so take care to not burn yourself!).
- The caramel will harden in a few minutes.
Tips & Tricks
Whipped Caramel Chocolate & Caramel Drizzle
Caramel Chocolate Mousse
- 3.5 oz 100 g granulated sugar
- 6 oz 170g semi sweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
- 1 stick 115g butter
- 1/4 cup cream
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup 50 g of sugar
- In a pan, sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom.
- On medium heat, start heating the sugar to melt it. Use a spatula to make sure the sugar is melting evenly. The sugar will start to clump up, but keep moving it around as the clumps start to melt.
- The sugar will start to caramelize and colour. Keep a close eye on it at this point as it may burn quickly.
- Mix the caramel to make sure it heats evenly, and cook it till the caramel turns a very dark amber colour.
- Leave the caramel for just a few seconds longer till it just starts to smell like it's burning and immediately add half the butter (4 tbsp/ 55g), and whisk it in until it is well incorporated (about 1-2 minutes).Since the caramel is very hot, adding the butter may cause it to splatter, so be careful!
- Add the salt and cream and mix them in until you get a smooth mixture.
- Turn off the heat and add the chocolate and let it melt in the residual heat. Whisk it until it is nice and smooth (if the mix is grainy add just a tablespoon more of cream to make the chocolate smooth).
- Transfer the chocolate into a bowl and let it chill in the fridge for about an hour till it is cold but not hard.
- Once the mix has completely cooled, it should be thick like a ganache.
- Add the rest of the butter into the chocolate mix and with a hand beater, beat the mix until the butter is fully incorporated and the chocolate ganache is whipped and lighter in colour.
- Transfer the mix into a piping bag with a small star tip and fill the Paris Brest pastry.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar evenly on the bottom of a pan and heat the sugar until it starts to caramelize.
- Mix and move the sugar around the pan to make sure it caramelizes evenly.
- When the sugar turns light amber in colour, immediately remove from the heat.
- Using a spoon or a small whisk, drizzle the caramel over the top of the Paris Brest. Take care to not spill the caramel on your hand/skin as it will be very very hot!
The creamy chocolate mousse was actually surprisingly not too rich and overwhelming and I loved how everything came together in the end. And with the crunchy dark caramel drizzle and the delicious choux pastry, this was definitely one of those infrequent occasions where it tasted so much better than it looked!
The past few days have been particularly cold and gloomy in this part of the country and I had a hard time taking pictures in the low light conditions inside the house. So I headed out. I’m pretty sure I received a few quizzical and amused looks!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that you have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving this year with a bellyful of happiness and deliciousness with all your loved ones together! 🙂 I am finishing this blog post Wednesday night after a full day of prepping for tomorrow! If you are reading this on the 27th, I am probably in the kitchen right now with Mr K, putting together our first Thanksgiving meal in the Giramuk household. And maybe with a glass of Raspberry Apple Lemonade cocktail in my hand too. Yes, I know it’s 10 in the morning but don’t judge me! It’s Thanksgiving after all!
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So how was your Thanksgiving? What are you most thankful for this year? Do let me know with a comment below! 🙂