Every upcoming season deserves a special dessert. And this classic French creation — A Paris Brest — does the season proud.
I have a huge love affair with recipes that come with an origin story, recipes like Tarte Tatin invented by mistake in France, or Eton Mess, a dish created when the pudding was dropped at an Eton vs Harrow cricket match in the late 19th century.
But more often than not, these tales have just a hint of truth, more myth than historical fact. With this Paris Brest recipe, we have a slightly more accurate understanding of the origins.
Paris Brest Recipe Origin
If you think it normally resembles a bicycle wheel, you’re right: Louis Durand – who was a big fan of cycling – created upon request from the organizer of a bicycle race between Paris and Brest, a large ring shape representing bicycle wheels. Nowadays a wreath of choux pastry filled with a praline mousseline cream can be found in all French pâtisseries!
Praline Mousseline Cream
Mousseline Cream (pronounced “moos-eh-leen”) is like pastry cream’s better-looking relative. It takes the modest pastry cream and enhances it with softened butter for an ultra-indulgent cream. The ratio is simple:
- 2 parts pastry cream (crème patissière)
- 1 part softened butter
Unlike plain crème patissière, mousseline cream is very versatile and can be used as a buttercream for frosting cakes etc… The most common use of mousseline cream is a praline variation in Paris-Brest, a classic French pastry. The emulsified butter gives the piped cream a very professional and beautiful look.
Tip: You can buy the almond praline paste online. Alternatively, you can use Nutella or any other nut butter.
Craquelin is a simple dough of 3 ingredients that gets rolled out, frozen, cut out and placed onto the Choux Pastry (Pâte à choux) before baking, and Voilà! An impressive result with very little effort!
It adds another layer of texture and gives a nice crunchy edge to any kind of choux.
Individual Paris Brest Recipe
Paris-Brest Choux au craquelin (cream puffs) with Praline Mousseline cream
For the Craquelin topping
- 100 g Unsalted butter, soft Diced
- 125 g Light brown sugar, cassonade
- 125 g Flour
For the crème pâtissière: Make this recipe
For the pâte à choux pastry dough: Make this recipe
For the praline crème mousseline
- 500 g Crème pâtissière, room temperature
- 250 g Unsalted butter, soft
- 200 g Praline paste I used the Callebaut Hazelnut Praline Paste
For the Craquelin topping
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, place the butter and sugar, and cream the ingredients together until creamy and fluffy.
- Tip in the flour and mix until the mixture looks crumbly. Using your hands, bring the crumbly bits of dough together to form a dough.
- Finish kneading by hand, until you obtain a ball. Turn out the dough onto a silicone baking mat and top with a second (or use parchment paper), Roll out to 1-2mm in thickness.
- Place the dough, still between the silicone baking mats, in the freezer until ready to use (Can be made ahead).
For the crème pâtissière
- Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise & use a knife to scrape the seeds out. Add the milk, half of the granulated sugar, and vanilla to a medium saucepan, then place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the leftover sugar and cornstarch until combined. Add the egg yolks and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain and the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Remove vanilla bean once the milk starts boiling, Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the milk
- Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens; its temperature should reach 73°C (165°F). This is important: if the pastry cream doesn't reach 165°F on the stovetop it won't set properly as it cools, and may get soft and runny.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter (substitute: + vanilla extract if you're not using a vanilla bean)
- Transfer to a bowl or shallow dish to cool down. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
- Cool to room temperature.
For the pâte à choux pastry dough
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie cutter, trace 4,5 cm / 1,7-inch circles on each baking sheet using a pen or a pencil, then flip over the baking sheet so that the side with the drawing is facing downward.
- Preheat your oven to 220°C
- In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt & butter. Bring to a boil on Medium-High heat.
- Add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and separates from the sides of the pan (1-2 mins). The mixture will we quite thick.Do NOT scrape the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Cooldown the dough by mixing it at a low speed and no longer than 2 – 3 minutes. (You don’t want to add the eggs while the dough is too hot. This can cook the eggs, and even give your choux an eggy taste).
- (Alternatively, you can mix the eggs in by hand with a wooden spoon!)With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated. The dough might split, but continue beating until it comes together again before adding the next egg. Scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.
- What you’re looking for here is a dough that looks glossy, but still thick, can hold its shape and is pipeable. Place a rubber spatula in the dough, upright, stir the dough a little, and slowly lift the spatula, straight up. If it forms a 'V' which eventually breaks off, you are good to go. If it seems too stiff, slowly add another beaten egg and mix to incorporate.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper and spray the surface with water (either that or lightly sprinkle water with your hands – this is an optional step).
- Transfer dough to a piping bag. Pipe into rounds for creampuffs (I did 4,5 cm / 1,7 inch circles). Press pointed tips, using your finger moistened with water to round them out. (However, if you’re topping the choux pastry with Craquelin, then you don’t have to do this.)
- Remove the craquelin from the freezer, and remove the top piece of parchment paper/silicone mat. Using the same sized cutter you used to trace the circles on the parchment paper, cut out circles of dough. Place each carefully on top of a mound of choux, pressing lightly to adhere.
- Lower the oven temperature and bake at 170 for 25-30 mins until they have doubled in size and are crisp & lightly golden. Do not open the oven door during the baking process.
- Let them cool down in an open but turned off oven.
- UNLESS you've got another batch of choux pastry to bake. So let the choux pastry cool down in a warm, draft-free area. The kitchen is the perfect spot. (which is already warm because the oven’s been doing its thing).
For the Praline Mousseline cream
- In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until pale and fluffy (approx. 5 minutes). Then add spoonful by spoonful of previously made pastry cream. Mix until it's all nicely incorporated and with no lumps. Add praline paste and mix until everything is combined.
- Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the tops of the cream puffs, approx. ¾ of the way up. Place praline creme mousseline into a piping bag fitted with preferred nozzle (Wilton 1A or 6B). Pipe the praline mousseline cream on the bottom of each cream puff. Cover with cream puff tops and sprinkle with powdered sugar and praline paste.
These individual Paris Brest cream puffs are best consumed within 4 hours of making them.
You can store baked unfilled Choux shells in an airtight container at room temperature to prevent them from drying out up to 1-2 days.
To freeze unfilled Choux, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or resealable plastic bags for up to 3 months. Do not cut cream puffs open before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling and serving.
Store baked filled Choux shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
I would not recommend freezing baked filled cream puff shells.
If you make this Paris Brest recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #WhatsUpDoughBakes.