Paris Brest, profiterole, croquembouche, éclair, cruller, beignet, gougère...all these fancy pastries are typically made of the same dough, called pate a choux. It's surprisingly easy to make and fun to pipe out into any shape you can imagine. The real magic happens in the oven when they blow up about three times their unbaked size, creating a hollow center for a delicious filling.
Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!
I might have bent the rules on this challenge by filling my pastry with a french buttercream though by no means out of laziness. French buttercream is an investment (not so much in skill but in time). I found the same to be true of the Paris Brest. Not really hard to do at all, but in total this project took a good chunk of time (with pleasure!). I will definitely be taking what I learned today, using these recipes pared down to simple mass produced profiteroles for future catering gigs.
The recipes below can be used for any form of baked choux pastry. You can alter the baking time and filling as you wish. The french buttercream can also be tinkered with quite easily and used for filling or frosting many desserts.
Wouldn't this little guy be awesome as an almond choux with pear filling??
Almond Paris Brest with Apricot French Buttercream
You can find the original Daring Bakers challenge recipes for pate a choux swans and pastry creams here.
Choux Pastry (pate a choux)
Use a large pan for this. When you whisk in the eggs you'll want plenty of room to groove.
½ cup butter
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temp
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large sauce pan, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over medium until the butter melts, then remove from stove. Let this cool off the heat for 2 minutes.
Add flour all at once and beat the mixture fiercely with a whisk until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.
The mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and very thick but not stiff.
If desired, prepare your parchment by tracing coins or poker chips set in perfect circle with a dark pencil. Flip your paper over and you'll be able see the pattern from above. Pipe dollops of dough that are barely touching each other with a half inch round tip or a bag with the corner snipped off.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden and puffed. Remove from the oven and release the steam from the side of each puff with the tip of a knife or a skewer. Slice in half horizontally with an intact top layer if possible, or slice the cap off each puff. Remove any excess clumps of dough from the centers and return to the oven, doughy side up, for several minutes to dry up a bit. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
Apricot French Buttercream
5 large egg yolks, room temp
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 melted apricot jam, pressed through a wire strainer to remove lumps (a 10 ounce jar will produce this amount) or use apricot syrup
1¼ cup (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons flavorful liquid of choice (fruity wine, juice, milk or cream)
Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are lemon yellow.
Put the sugar, honey and apricot syrup in a pan and cook over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches exactly 235°F (or thread stage) on a digital thermometer.
With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins).
Still on high, beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla and 2 teaspoons of liquid after you beat in the butter.
Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.
Pipe buttercream using a round tip onto the center of each circle that creates your ring. Place the top on your Paris Brest and press lightly, keeping some of the buttercream exposed. Dust with a mixture of one part ground cinnamon and one part powdered sugar. Pipe one little spot of buttercream onto the center of each circle and place 2 almond slices into the cream in a pattern.