Paris Brest are a type of pastry that I encountered on my trip to Paris last year. The pastries were created in 1891 in honor of a bike race that ran from Paris to Brest, a city on the Western coast of France. They are made of pate a choux that is piped into ring shapes to mimic the shape of a bicycle tire, as opposed to the rounds that you see for cream puffs or the oblong bars for eclairs. The choux rings are traditionally topped with almonds and filled with pastry cream, but really you can make them in and endless variety of flavor combinations.
This Paris Brest is filled with Espresso Whipped Cream, which couldn’t be simpler to make. I simply added some strong coffee extract – a good bit of instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water will make a fine substitute – and vanilla to lightly sweetened whipped cream. Just enough coffee flavor and sweetness comes through rich tasting cream. I whip the cream to fairly stiff peaks and pipe it into the split-open pastries using a star tip, then dust them with confectioners’ sugar, to give them a traditional look. You can skip the piping and simply spread the cream inside with a spoon or a knife. Just don’t forget to split the pastries in half with a knife before filling; you can’t just poke a pastry tip in there and fill these up like a cream puff!
You can make them any size you like, but most that I spotted (and my homemade ones, too) are about palm-sized, the perfect portion for a one person snack. My rings were about 2 1/2 – 3 inches across. If you make yours larger or smaller, you might need to extend (or shorten) the baking time by a couple of minutes. Regardless of the size, however, these are easy to make, impressive to look at and definitely delicious to eat. The choux dough can be made in advance and refrigerated if you don’t want to do this all in one setting, and to give the pastries an extra crispness (say, if you’re going to leave them sitting out for a while) let them cool in the oven with the door open before filling them up.
Paris Brest with Espresso Cream
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Combine water, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Once that mixture boils, add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough comes together in a ball. Continue to cook and stir for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix at a low speed for 2 minutes until slightly cooled (bowl should not be too hot to touch). Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed to make batter smooth.
Transfer choux to a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe choux into 2 1/2 of 3-inch rounds.
Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and firmly set.
Cool on a wire rack or on the baking sheet, in the oven with the door cracked open.
Cool completely before filling.
2 cups heavy cream, cold
2 tsp coffee extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (to taste)
In a large bowl, beat cream to soft peaks with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Beat in coffee extract (it is possible to make espresso extract by dissolving about 1 tsp instant coffee/espresso in 2-3 tsp of hot water, then letting it cool before using), vanilla extract and sugar, adding more sugar to taste if necessary. Beat cream to fairly stiff peaks.
Transfer cream to a piping bag (or large zip-loc bag) fitted with a star pastry tip.
Cut the Paris Brest pastries in half with a sharp knife. Pipe cream into the bottom halves of the pastries, then replace the tops.
Dust with additional confectioners’ sugar before serving.