As a self-taught cook, there are certain recipes I avoid due to the technique, process and time it takes to get them right. Perfecting choux pastry for instance, is one of these daunting processes that always made me tremble with intimidation.
Prior to this recipe, I had only ever made choux once before and it was an entire disaster – partly due to my impatient nature of opening the oven door to check and see whether the pastry had risen. This is definitely the ultimate sin that can be committed when making choux pastry, as it will always result in a deflated lump that cannot be resurrected no matter how hard you try.
After my initial failure, I was more motivated than ever to perfect choux pastry. I read countless cookbooks, blogs and watched way too many reality cooking shows so that I could learn all about the unusually temperamental process. Inspired and armed with newfound knowledge, I decided to create the ultimate of all choux recipes, a classic Paris Brest.
For those unaware, the Paris Brest was originally created in the early nineteen hundreds to celebrate the 1200km bicycle race of the same name. Today, the race is still run and it’s understandable as to why the recipe has stood the test of time – it is so utterly delicious. Traditionally, a ring of choux is filled with a praline mousseline cream and sprinkled with flaked almonds and icing sugar.
However, I wanted to create my own unique version that rivalled the traditional standard. This Tiered “Éclair” Paris Brest Gateau is unlike any I have ever seen, or eaten – it is comprised of four tiered choux layers that also makes a subtle flavour hint to another of my favourite pastries, the chocolate éclair.
If ever there was a pastry as decadent or extravagant as this Tiered “Éclair” Paris Brest Gateau, I have yet to find it. Four golden, light and fluffy rings of choux pastry are filled with a salted caramel mousseline then topped with a dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with a crushed hazelnut praline.
This is not a recipe to make if you are short on time or for the faint hearted. It is demanding with many time consuming and labour intensive components – rings of pate a choux, salted caramel mousseline, dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut praline, all have to be created and assembled. The end result is definitely worth it though.
If you do not feel up to the challenge of a 1200km bicycle race, I’d strongly encourage you to take on the challenge of making this Tiered “Éclair” Paris Brest Gateau. It is decadently delicious and enrapturingly beautiful.
- For the Choux Pastry:
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
- ⅓ cup (90 g) butter, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup (150 g) plain flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk, whisked
- For the Hazelnut Praline:
- 150 g blanched Hazelnuts
- 100 g (1/3 cup) water
- 120 g caster sugar
- 100 g liquid glucose
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 20 g butter, cubed
- For assembly:
- 1 x quantity Salted Caramel Mousseline (recipe link below)
- 1 x quantity Dark Chocolate Ganache (recipe link below)
- 4 x Choux Pastry Rings, halved
- 1 x quantity Hazelnut Praline
- For the Choux pastry:
- In a large saucepan, place the water, butter and salt over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the pan (1-2 minutes).
- Remove from heat and transfer the dough to a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until cooled and at room temperature (2 minutes), so as to not cook the egg. Add the 4 whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and glossy but still holds its shape.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). On two sheets of baking paper draw three 15 cm disks and one smaller 12 cm disk. Place these sheets disk side down on two baking trays.
- Fill the pastry in a piping bag fitted with a 2 cm (3/4 inch) plain nozzle. Pipe a ring of pastry over the marked disk. Pipe a second pastry ring on the inside so it is touching the first. Pipe a third pastry ring on top along the center seam where the two bottom rings meet. Brush with whisked egg yolk and using the back of a fork, gently score the circles to promote even rising.
- Sprinkle the sheet with water and bake for 15 minutes until well puffed and golden. Decrease the oven temperature to 180 C (350 F) and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until golden brown and crisp all over. Leave the oven door ajar and let the rings cool. Once cool, gently cut the rings horizontally. Set aside for assembly.
- For the Hazelnut Praline:
- Before you start, have two pieces of baking paper and a rolling pin ready on a flat work surface.
- Bring the water, sugar, glucose and salt to the boil in a large pan over high heat, stirring as you go.
- Bring the syrup to 165 C (330 F) or until it is a light-amber in colour (5-8 minutes from boiling) and add the cubed butter, whisking briskly. When the butter has melted and is emulsified with the caramel, tip in the hazelnuts and stir quickly to coat.
- Quickly pour the coated hazelnuts onto one of the baking paper sheets and cover with the over and roll so that the hazelnuts are all in a single layer. Let cool completely, then gently life off the top baking paper layer. Break nougatine into shards and roughly chop or smash. Set aside for Assembly
- For Assembly:
- Place the bottom half of a Choux ring on a cake stand.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with the salted caramel Mousseline. Gently pipe the Mousseline onto the ring in a connecting chain of rosettes. (If you feel your Paris Brest is not tall enough you can add another layer of Mousseline on top the previous one).
- Gently sandwich with the other half of the Choux ring. Top the choux ring with dark chocolate ganache. Repeat this process with the remaining 15 cm choux rings.
- When the last (12 cm) Choux ring is placed, piped and layered with ganache, gently sprinkle the crushed hazelnut nougatine over the top. Chill Paris Brest Gateau in the fridge for 30 minutes to slightly harden the layers and then serve.
Salted Caramel Mousseline and Dark Chocolate Ganache recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller