Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Paris Brest

I love a cooking challenge. So when my friend Barb asked me if I knew about the Paris-Brest recipe honoring the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle event, I was intrigued.
Here's a little background. The race is one of the oldest ongoing cycling events but it started in 1891 when bicycles were heavy and roads not paved (or well). The event started as a race (that stopped in 1951). 
Riders go 1,200 km or a something over 700 miles from Paris to Brest, which is on the east coast, then back. And they do it all at once. No stops. No cushy sleepovers with a fine meal at the end of the day. 
This is a grueling event, with a goal of making it in 90 hours. 
A little story about the above image -- this is from google, but I have an original of the Le Petit Journal which I bought for Rick in Paris at the Vanves brocante in 2009 with Tara Bradford, who was such a help! In the photos near the end of the post, you'll see my newspaper of this image framed. Rick loved it! I do, too!
The event is held every four years -- and this isn't the year. But it was the year we decided to make the Paris Best dessert, which was also created in 1891 to honor the event. Because of its energy-building high calories, riders loved it. It is now found in patisseries all over the country!
We thought it should be in Michigan, too!
So, the plan was Rick would ride out to Perry, where Barb lived -- about 20 miles away. We'd have a wonderful dinner and our Paris Brest Dessert (or maybe we should call it Perry Brest!)
Barb got a head start, making the praline creme filling the day before. (Recipe: Cook's Illustrated.) When I arrived we were making the dessert pastry. (Recipe: Sunset Cookbook -- and really, any pate' choux will work.) The pastry is piped in the shape of a bicycle tire -- three layers of pastry with a top, bottom and middle "inner tube."
First, you make a template on parchment paper, tracing the outline of an 8" plate on the paper, spraying a pan and putting the paper upside down on the pan. (8" seems very small -- but it gets much bigger!)
We started making a pate' choux (basically the cream puff recipe), boiling butter and water and then adding flour/sugar/salt. When it was ready for the next step, it looked like this. We had a discussion about who this looked like.
Next we added four eggs, one at a time. (The photo above looks like more than two. That's because we beat them up with a fork and on the first addition, added a little more than we should -- didn't matter!
With every addition, the eggs looked all slimy. You just beat it till it was smooth, added another and did it again! And again.
Eventually it is smooth and able to go in the pastry bag.
The inner tube is once around. The top and bottom of the wheels is twice around. 
When done, brush with egg wash, the cover with almonds or hazelnuts (which we couldn't find.)
And bake!
When done, it looks like this:
After baking, slice the two wheels in half. (Why you don't just make one I don't know -- might have to do with the rise.)
Pipe in the filling on the bottom layer; place the inner tube on top.
Then pipe again, placing the almond-top up. (Beware of overzealous piping! Keep a towel or sink handy!)
Dust with powdered sugar and voila!
Of course, we had to display it and oooh and ahhh!
Cut with a serrated knife -- it really did look spectacular.
The curious rider loved it!
And the cooks were very, happy!
I'll be glad to share the recipe -- just email me or leave it in the comments. I have to get the filling from Barby but glad to forward it on. It takes a long while, rather labor intensive. But not hard. And oh, so worth it! And if you decide to do it, tell me and I'll send you a link that goes step by step and makes it much easier to contemplate!

NOTES: The archival photos are from Google Images (thank you!). And by the way, just because you put in a google query for images, like "Paris Brest" doesn't mean the pix that come up are from there -- I've removed it now but a friend pointed out that one of the maps I featured was from WALES!


Bella Rum said...

That looks like a lot of work but oh so pretty. I bet it was yummy. Interesting info about the race. I never heard of it before. Can you imagine? The riders must have been beyond exhaustion at the end. Looks like you guys had fun making the dessert. :)

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh would you make one for me? Smiling! This looks like just what I need and delicious too! How fun to share this fun project with a friends. What a fun day!

Shane Pollard said...

Ooh la la Jeanie you're quite the pâtissier - I now know Rick's not the only one in your family - well done!
Such a fun thing to do - I occasionally make a choux Gougère with chicken livers - it's easy as but everyone thinks it must be very complicated!
I'm always inspired to cook french food when I return home.

Thinking of you and sending an email.
love and hugs
Shane ♥

Joanne Huffman said...

A really good looking dessert. Glad it was a success.

anno said...

A dessert that looks as challenging to make as the event that inspired it --that looks totally amazing!

Hoping you enjoyed a lovely Memorial Day weekend!

Beth M. said...

Pastry cream = <3 <3 <3

~*~Patty S said...

A work of art...beautiful collaboration!
I can just imagine how delicious it was ... extra fun reading about the background and inspiration too...
You are a lady of many talents Jeanie

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What a delight! I will have to try this soon. I did not know the story, but in general all of the wonderful pastries have a story, n'est-ce pas?


Sally Wessely said...

This baking adventure is quite impressive! I would never have the nerve to take this on. I loved the way it looked when finished, and I bet it tasted really, really good. This was a fun, interesting, and informative post.

I need orange said...

I'm glad riding the race is not a requirement for enjoying the pastry. :-)

I wanted to make sure you saw this: http://ineedorange.blogspot.com/2013/04/april-12-lunch-and-accademia.html

I was thinking about you. :-)

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, this looks wonderful! Please send me the recipe! looks like it could be one to make for someone I have in mind, who has a "special birthday" coming up!

Janet said...

I looks positively delicious...but I'm sure it would be too much work for me!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my! What an adventure! Your little sweet look delicious and time consuming! Good for you. Your pictures are so sweet too. We were in Paris one year and had to leave to fly back home the day before the Tour de France started.
Thanks for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Annie Jeffries said...

You know, of course, that I put on ten pounds just looking at this divine confection. **sigh*

Tammie Lee said...

that looks amazing!
maybe a lot of work
but gorgeous work of art for the eyes and taste!

Tracy said...

WOW--HUGELY impressive, Jeanie! That stuff is so good... I've thought to make it, but it is rather fiddly. I'd rather see you make it. ;o) Great to catch up with you here now we're back from vacation. So glad to get your note saying you're doing OK just now. Happy Weekend ((HUGS)

Anonymous said...

Eeeee!!! This is what I'm talking about. LOVE IT!!! Oh gosh, I think I'm going to get a new journal for all the recipes I want to challenge myself with, not just any but ones that inspire me and make me think of beautiful friends and neighbors like you, Jeanie. I have to go through this post again slowly. Pastry's a whole other game, isn't it.
Yes, I'd love the recipe. Thank you.


shoreacres said...

No, ma'am. No recipe for me. I'm not averse to a challenge, but I'm not taking on Mt. Everest, either!

I do love a good pastry, though, and the history connected with this one is fascinating. Maybe I could come up with a variation on it using the sweet dough I use for Christmas breads. But that wouldn't be the same, and it would sort of be missing the point, now wouldn't it.

Better I should ooh and aah and admire your commitment and skill. And get a French pastry at the bakery tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Seriously the pastry is amazing and oh so beautiful!
I Love that you share the story and all the great photos to accompany it.
Thank you for the fun visit Jeannie and I trust you are enjoying your weekend!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I sent this post to my aunt to check out as we didn't get a chance to pull it up when I stayed with her. What an amazing dessert! it does look/sound time intensive, but it's good to know it's worth it!

We actually did some menu planning this weekend. We are going to do a small nicoisse salad, a cream of mushroom soup, pot au feu, and a walnut cake for dessert. (I think, it's a blur as I was so stressed with test prep!)

paris parfait said...

Very impressive! A nice way to mark the event. Even the French don't usually make their own; they buy it at their boulangerie. So well done, you!

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