Monday, April 5, 2010

Hazelnut Paris Brest

Hung over from eating all your kid's Easter candy? I am... blasted Cadbury Eggs! Don't worry, I've got a little sugar 'hair of the dog' to sooth you.

Hazelnut Paris Brest

No, not breast. What sort of blog do you think this is? Brest, the town in France.

There is a cycling event--one of the oldest events of that type still routinely run--from Paris to Brest and then back. The Paris-Brest is also a pastry created to commemorate the event in the late 1800's and is said to resemble the tire of a bicycle.

Or perhaps the round trip between the cities... whatever. To me, it just represents happiness. Which is what results when you consume such a light and creamy pastry laced with praline.

So. Good.

Traditionally, the pastry it is made with almonds, but we're going to use hazelnuts today.

I was inspired by the recipe in Luscious Creamy Desserts, though I admit that apart from the idea and the praline, I used little else. Creamy Desserts uses a milk pâte à choux, a recipe I've never had much luck with, so I went with the traditional flour, water, butter, eggs choux. I also used my ol' reliable pastry cream recipe.

A quick warning: Making this dessert is a bit of a marathon, so keep that in mind before attempting. While each of the component parts are not terribly difficult, there are so many that it can require some stamina.

Lets start with the praline.

Hazelnut Praline
adapted from Luscious Creamy Desserts
1 cup hazelnuts
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup (liquid glucose)
1 pinch salt

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F. Arrange the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for roughly 10-15 minutes until fragrant and they take on a light golden blush.

When done remove as much of the seed coat as you can (I rub the cool nuts between my palms) don't fuss over this step too much. Some seed coat on the nuts isn't the end of the world.

Spray a wide shallow heat proof bowl with a little nonstick spray and place the nuts inside. Now you're ready to start making the candy

Over medium heat, combine the remaining ingredients into a small heavy bottomed sauce pan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then allow it to boil untouched. You can wash down the sides of the pan occasionally with a damp pastry brush.

Now stare at your sugar. Yes, stare at it for roughly 10-15 minutes (don't rush it by turning up the heat). The water is going to boil away concentrating the syrup and then the sugars will begin to caramelize. This last step occurs quickly, which is why you must watch it. The length of time between the a perfect praline and a mess of burnt sugar isn't long, so don't be tempted to step away from the stove. When the sugar starts to take on color, give the pot a gentle swirl to keep the color uniform. When the sugar turns a medium amber color pull it off the heat and immediately pour it over the nuts in the bowl.

Once cool you can break it into chunks. Place those chunks into a sturdy zip top bag and smash them into smaller bits with a rolling pin. Then grind the bits into powder in your food processor.

Store the powder in an air tight container in your freezer (it won't keep at room temperature). This recipe won't require all the praline, but you'll find that it has plenty of uses (from topping ice cream to adding a sweet crunch to homemade chocolates).

Don't be intimidated by the french name, making choux is really quite simple (I was making choux before I could drive a car). With this base you can create cream puffs, eclairs and any number of other goodies.

Pâte à Choux
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter (cut into pieces)
1 cup flour
1 cup eggs (roughly 4 large eggs)

Bring the butter and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. With a wooden spoon vigorously stir the mixture. It will start out as a sticky mess but will turn into a glossy lump of dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a bowl and beat using hand beaters (you can also you use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) for a minute on medium speed to cool the dough a bit. Then add the eggs, one at at a time, beating on high speed to incorporate. Once the dough goes from wet and slippery to sticky, you can add the next egg. (Some folks prefer to do this entirely by hand, however the rise from the choux will not be quite as good.)

Once you've added all the eggs you can add the dough to your pastry bag. I'm using an Ateco 809 to pipe these, if you don't have that large of a tip, go ahead and use a Ziploc bag with a cut corner (you'll want an opening almost an inch in diameter).

Pre-heat your oven to 425°F and line two sheet pans with parchment. You'll want to pipe 8-10 circles onto the sheets (you can trace the rim of a 3" glass on the paper as a template), remembering that the rounds will expand quite a bit during baking.

Once the oven is preheated, place a pan inside and reduce the heat to 350°F and allow to bake for 30-35 minutes.

Once done, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack immediately to cool.

When cool, cut the rings in half (if there is any moist uncooked pastry inside, remove it) and you're ready to fill with your hazelnut praline cream

Hazelnut Praline Cream
pastry cream adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft
320 mL whole milk
75 grams granulated sugar
28 grams unsalted butter
28 grams cornstarch
113 grams of eggs (roughly 2 large eggs)
5 mL pure vanilla extract

2 cups (480mL) heavy cream
roughly 1 cup of hazelnut praline powder (more or less to your taste)

Combine 240mL of the milk and 33 grams of the sugar into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add the butter and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk the cornstarch with the remaining milk and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until completely smooth.

When the milk comes to a boil remove from heat immediately and pour a third of the hot milk into the bowl with the eggs and cornstarch while mixing with the whisk. Return this mixture to pan with the remaining hot milk and set over medium heat stirring constantly with the whisk.

Cook the mixture until it comes to a boil, has thickened and the whisk leaves a trail in the mixture.

Pour the mixture into a stainless steel bowl set into an ice bath and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

Once the mixture is cool, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks and then gently mix one third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream along with the praline powder. Fold the remaining cream in until no streaks remain.

Pipe the mixture into your pastry and place the second half on top.

Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkling of the praline powder.

Mr. Humble ate half of them while I was photographing. I kept having to rearrange the shoot to make up for the lack of pastries I had in the background. He wants me to make them again... ugh. Maybe for his birthday.



  1. I saw that book on Amazon after all your posts on Luscious Lemon Desserts. Tart desserts and fat-ass desserts are my two favorite kinds! You've sold me: I'll be getting both the books ASAP.

  2. I promised my husband that if he finished Paris-Brest I would make this. He did, in the super rainy 2007 race. I better get them made before he tries it again in 2011. Though he came back a bone chart, so I better plan to make them a lot in 2011 too.
    Time to get baking.

  3. Dang, that looks good. What could be better than a circular eclair?

  4. A circular eclair filled with praline cream. Om nom.

  5. It looks so fluffy and rich ... mmmmm amazing!! Love french cusine... :)

  6. These are so beautiful! I love your piping skills.

  7. Those look beyond amazing. I may have to give them a try.

  8. What an elegant and delicious dessert..
    Very interesting story. I bookmarked the recipe to try it soon.
    thanks for sharing.

  9. That looks as light and lovely as a cloud. Beautiful rendition of Paris brest.

  10. Looks similar to Swedish semlor. Have you ever made semlor before? (although there is cardamom in them, which is a pretty distinctive taste)

  11. Huum i'm french and your Paris-Brest is beautiful!!

  12. I'm a bit late to this party, but just yesterday I was experimenting with new ways to skin hazelnuts and the following method really works. Even better, it uses SCIENCE.

    Add 4 tbsp bicarb to a quart of water in a big pan.
    Bring to the boil and add the hazelnuts.
    Watch in dismay as copious amounts of pinkish foam boils over and floods your hob.
    Consider next time adding the nuts and THEN bringing the water to the boil.
    After about 4 minutes drain the nuts and rinse under cold water.
    Marvel as the suckers pop right out of their skins.
    Toast the wet nuts to dry them out (mine needed about 15 mins at 180 C, I guess it depends how much water they absorbed).

    It is still a bit of a faff, but so much less of a faff than the usual baking/rubbing method, and the skins come off in one piece so it's great if you need, err, really clean nuts.

  13. sorry for the stupid question, but i assume the 1/2 for the water in the pralines is 1/2 cup?

  14. Not a stupid question, just a stupid mistake.

    Yes, it is a half cup.

  15. that's what i figured so i tried it, made the praline last night...yum! can't imagine how good the finished product will be!

  16. Made this for a Tour de France party, and it was a big hit. Very yummy! Involved, yes, but the best things always are.


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