Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chocolate Eclair Paris Brest

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

A Paris Brest is made with the same dough as an eclair, though typically it's sandwiched with almond and hazelnut flavored crème mousseline and decorated with slivered almonds and powdered sugar.  Our Daring Baker's hostess, Luisa, was completely open to us being creative thinkers with this challenge, so I recreated a chocolate doughnut filled with vanilla pudding and glazed with rich chocolate.  I served this chilled, sliced into wedges, and it was fantastic. 

Pate a choux is used for making cream puff type desserts, because it blows up in the oven and can be filled with pastry cream or other things, both sweet and savory.  And it's super easy to make!  I made two eight-inch rings of pastry and they both fell a bit when I pulled them out of the oven.  Instead of splitting the rings into two layers I used each as sort of a top and bottom "bun" for my doughnut sandwich.  The filling is real vanilla bean pastry cream and it is SO yummy.  Once chilled, this ginormous doughnut slices up nice and clean. It's not a super refined dessert...but it was really fun to make and kind of charming in a way.

Choux Pastry (pate a choux)
Use a deep saucepan 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
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temp

Egg Wash:
1 egg mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons water until smooth

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 a 6 inch circle with a dark pencil. Flip your paper over and you'll be able see the pattern from above. Pipe three layers of dough in a ring with a half inch round tip or a bag with the corner snipped off, or use a
 star-shaped tip. If you don't have a star tip, use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the egg wash.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden and puffed. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice in half horizontally and fill the bottom layer with pastry cream (recipe below), capping it with the top layer.  Or use two intact rings for the two layers of the doughnut sandwich, piping pastry cream between them..

Set the "sandwich" on a wire rack over a sheet pan and top with lukewarm chocolate glaze (recipe below) and chill until set.  Slice and serve immediately.

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool a bit if you want it thicker.  Warm it up a bit if you want to thin it out.


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