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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gateau Paris-Brest: a Delicious Pastry with a Story



One of the (non-edible) things I love about food is how it can tell a story. Now, I’m not saying that the first thing that pops to mind as I’m staring at my dinner is ”Oh, my dear dinner, tell me a story…” BUT, when I’m full (and thus less impatient) I do enjoy learning stories behind the delicious bites that made my tummy happy.



One story-full pastry that I enjoy is the “Gateau Paris-Brest”. Apparently, this pastry is supposed to resemble a bike tire, in honor of a famous bike race from Paris to Brest, France. The Gateau Paris-Brest dessert starts off with a ring of the dough called “pate a choux”. Pate a choux is the same type of dough that is used for things like cream puffs, éclairs and profiteroles. The dough starts out on the stovetop and then (after being piped into the desired shapes) it is baked in the oven.



The way I was taught to make a traditional Gateau Paris-Brest, is to top the dough ring with sliced almonds before baking. After it has finished baking and is cool, it is cut horizontally and then filled with a layer of almond-praline pastry cream and then a layer of rum whipped cream. Rum whipped cream is amazing…it’s a sweet secret weapon all in itself.

Finally, this round and delicious pastry is lightly dusted with powdered sugar and gobbled up. The Gateau Paris-Brest is absolutely refined and delicious. It tastes lightly sweet and a little boozy with crunch from the almonds and a multi-dimensional creaminess that is irresistible.



Gateau Paris -Brest
(adapted from Mary Risley)

Choux Paste
1 cup water
4 oz butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs
pinch salt
2-3 Tbsp sliced almonds

Praline
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup almonds

Pastry Cream (lighter version)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cups milk
pinch of salt

Rm Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp dark rum
Confectioner's sugar


Choux: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To make the pate a choux, combine the butter, salt and water in a small saucepan. Melt butter, then bring to a boil. Off the heat, add the flour all at once, beating with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Return to the heat and cook 1-2 minutes, until the dough forms a shiny ball. Transfer dough to the bowl of Kitchenaid, fitted with a paddle. Mix at low speed until dough has cooled somewhat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Place dough in pastry bad with round tip. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, pipe a ring. Pipe another ring inside the first ring. Pipe a third ring on top. Eggwash and sprinkle with almonds. Turn up oven to 425 degres and bake about 40 minutes, until very brown. Remove from oven and pierce bottom a few times to let steam escape. When cool, slice in half lengthwise, forming a top and bottom.

Pastry Cream: Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Add the cornstarch. Temper mixture by gradually whisking in heated milk. Pour mixture into saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook 1-2 minutes, until thick. Add the vanilla. Cool covered with plastic or buttered waxed paper to prevent skin. When cool, mix with praline.

Rum Whipped Cream: When ready to assemble, whip the cream with sugar and rum until stiff. Pipe praline pastry cream into bottom of pastry. Pipe whipped cream on top of praline cream. Cover with top pastry and dust with confectioners sugar.

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