Wheel of fortune
This classic French dessert dates from 1910, when cycling was all the rage. The Paris-Brest was a legendary 1200 km cycle race organized from 1891 by the Parisian newspaper Le Petit Journal. Before taking the Route Nationale 12, then a major highway, the race zipped through the town of Maisons-Laffitte, not far from Paris, where young baker Louis Durand created in its honour a superb praline-filled cake in the shape of a bicycle wheel.
A crown of choux pastry filled with Chiboust cream: that’s the official definition in the first edition of Larousse Gastronomique (1938). The original recipe remains the same. The third generation of the Durand family still follows it, but there are limitless imitations and variations. Starting with the éclair, which is the most common and famous spin-off.
No need to race
The Sunday cake is a French treat in which the Paris-Brest is a regular participant. The delicate assembly of this divine dessert begins with the classic choux pastry recipe, which is adaptable to both sweet and savoury treats. Arranged in a circle on a baking sheet with a large piping bag, the choux pastry is cooked, and the risen crown is then sliced horizontally in half. Now the lower half is covered with smooth, chilled mousseline whipped cream. Next comes the preparation of the Chiboust cream, praliné or not, with which we will decorate half of the crown using a fluted nozzle, before covering this filling with the upper part of the crown, sprinkled with flaked almonds and icing sugar.
Praline is more than an ingredient. The best chefs, like French celebrity chef Cyril Lignac, make it themselves: the hazelnuts are immersed for 5 minutes at 150 ° in a mixture of sugar and water. Let the sugar coat the nuts by turning them for a few minutes, the let this coating caramelize. The praline is a fine powdered reduction of the caramelized hazelnuts.
A recipe that’s easier than it seems if you want to go the “homemade” route.
What is Chiboust cream?
It bears the name of another great Parisian pastry chef, Auguste Julien Chiboust. In 1840, he used it to fill a cake that he named after the street where his patisserie was located: Saint-Honoré. He added beaten egg whites to cream to make the Chiboust: an exceptional mousseline cream, airy, beautifully formed and highly indulgent, which made everyone salivate and that would be widely imitated.
The Paris-Brest, that queen of Sunday cakes, was for a time dethroned, like so many traditional desserts, by the dictatorship of dieting.
Blame it on the cream with butter. But contemporary pastry chefs, while respecting the original, have created lighter variations. Thanks to Pierre Hermé, Philippe Conticini, Sébastien Bouillet, Cyril Lignac, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse and others, the Paris-Brest has regained the place of honour it deserves among pastries – and indeed on 21st century dessert menus.
A little anecdotal debate
Some claim the Paris-Brest’s circular form is that of the winner’s laurel wreath, or even a motorcar wheel rather than that of a bicycle wheel. Convincing others may be an uphill struggle.
You are 3 to have shared this memory!
Christiane, Daniel, Esteban, Marco et Carole
Le Paris Brest
Le Paris Brest
Isabelle et Jean-Francois