Paris-Brest is a traditional French pastry made of pâte à choux and filled with rich, nutty pastry cream. This elegant dessert is sure to impress your guests.
Pâte à choux is such a versatile traditional French pastry dough. One of the many creations made from this dough is Paris-Brest. It is an elegant dessert that is not complicated to make but will impress your family and friends. It's a circular puff that is traditionally filled with a praline cream. However, I've added my twist to this pastry filling by using an almond pastry cream.
As the story goes, Paris-Brest was created in the early 1900s to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris. The circular shape represented the wheel of a bicycle and became very popular with the racers. Today, Paris-Brest is a popular French pastry found in pâtisseries.
What you need to make Paris-Brest
Digital scale (or measuring cups and spoons)
Two baking sheet pans
Parchment paper or a silicone mat
Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
Two pastry bags
1/2-inch star tip
Medium mixing bowl
One small baking sheet pan
Pâte à choux. A traditional French dough used to make a variety of pastries. It requires six simple ingredients and transforms from mixture to finished product with the steam created from its high moisture ingredients.
Milk. Milk acts as a thickening agent in pastry cream. Always use whole milk (or you could even use heavy cream for a richer flavor) because low-fat milk will not thicken the pastry cream.
Butter. Adds richness to the pastry cream.
Sugar. The sweetness of pastry cream comes from the sugar. However, sugar also delays the coagulation of the egg proteins. Therefore the pastry cream thickens at a higher temperature allowing the egg proteins to combine with the other ingredients creating a smooth consistency slowly.
Vanilla Bean. Adds a lovely flavor to the pastry cream. If you do not have a vanilla bean, you can substitute two teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
Cornstarch. Helps thicken the pastry cream. Using too much cornstarch in a recipe can leave a bad aftertaste. Therefore flour is used in conjunction with the cornstarch to thicken the mixture.
Flour. Another thickening agent in pastry cream.
Egg. Using only the yolks gives the pastry cream a richer flavor and a creamier texture than using whole eggs.
Almond butter. It is mixed with the pastry cream to create the filling of the Paris-Brest.
How to make Paris-Brest
- Make pâte à choux. Begin by making pâte à choux. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip with the dough and pipe thirty 2-inch circles on parchment-lined sheet pans (you will need half for this recipe, and the rest can be frozen, or you can double the filling recipe). Leave 2-inches between each pastry. Brush each Paris-Brest with egg wash and sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
- Bake pâte à choux. Bake, one sheet at a time, in a preheated 400°F/200°C oven until dough rises, about 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F/160°C and bake pastries for an additional 35-40 minutes. Look for a fully cooked interior and a golden-brown exterior.
- Make the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter, sugar, and vanilla over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, flour, sugar, milk, and egg yolks until combined. Off the heat, pour half of the milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously. Pour the mixture through a sieve into the saucepan with the remaining vanilla mixture. Return to medium heat and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Allow the pastry cream to cook for 1 minute.
- Cool filling. Transfer pastry cream to a plastic-lined sheet pan. Spread into an even, thin layer and place plastic wrap directly on top. Refrigerate until cool to the touch.
- Make the almond cream filling. Place the pastry cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed for about 1 minute. Add softened butter and almond butter to the bowl and lower the mixer to medium-high speed. Whisk for an additional 2 minutes.
- Assemble Paris-Brest. Transfer almond cream filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip. Using a serrated knife, slice each Paris-Brest in half horizontally. Pipe filling onto the bottoms and place tops over the almond cream. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Tips and Takeaways
- To create perfect circles, trace a 2-inch (or desired size) pastry ring on your parchment paper dark enough so that you can see it through the parchment paper. Space each circle out to create rows and columns, allowing 2-inches between each circle. Place traced side down on your baking sheet pan. Pipe pastry over each see-through circle.
- Instead of almond butter, you can substitute any other nut butter or use praline paste to make the filling.
- Rather than throw away the vanilla bean after using it for the pastry cream, dry it off and place it in an airtight container with granulated sugar. Use about 2 cups of sugar for one vanilla bean. Allow it to sit for at least one week for the flavors to infuse.
- You can make the pâte à choux ahead of time. Once you make the dough, pipe the Paris-Brest shapes onto parchment paper and bake as directed. Allow pastries to cool to room temperature, place in a freezer-safe bag, and freeze for up to three months. You can also freeze the dough at the raw stage. Pipe shapes as directed and place in the freezer until they don't lose their shape from handling them. Place in a freezer-safe bag and freeze until ready to use (up to three months). Bake straight from the freezer.