Friday, November 28, 2014

Paris-Brest to Celebrate a Harvard Victory

Loyal readers, you may not know it, but Erica and I have a deep-seated rivalry: 

We used the annual playing of the Harvard-Yale football game as the backdrop for our most recent challenge. Sadly, our local TV stations didn't think this the big match-up, so we could only get score updates via the internet. But we nevertheless donned our school colors to bake.

The Paris-Brest is actually quite easy -- an amalgam some of our previous challenges. We whipped up some pate a choux dough, and piped it into circles. We were actually quite proud of our pastry skills.

Next up, we attempted to carmelize some almonds and hazelnuts. Not sure what happened here, but the sugar crystalized, rather than browned. Maybe our heat was too low? But we figure that since we were just going throw this into a food processor, this would probably do just fine.

Erica doubted our ability to cut the pastry in half, but our knife skills seemed to have improved. 

The almond/hazelnut paste then gets folded into a cream, and piped into the halved pate a choux and topped with silvered almonds. The final product was delicious if a bit sloppy. For any of you that have ever had a Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant from La Boulange in the bay area, the innards tasted identical to that -- which was a bit of a revelation for me. So delicious. 

But the sweetest thing? A Harvard victory - 31 to 24. 


Servings: 6 small Paris-Brest
Pâte à Choux
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (100 ml) whole milk
1/3 teaspoon (2 gm) salt
1 teaspoon (4 gm) caster sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) cold butter
¾ cup plus 4 teaspoons (200 ml) (3.5 oz) (100 gm) cake flour
3 medium eggs, beaten
two handfuls of slivered almonds
egg for the brushing
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180° C/gas mark 4 and sift the flour.
2. In a nonstick saucepan pour in the milk, water, sugar and salt. Add the butter in small pieces and put on medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Add the flour in one shot to the boiling liquid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula. Cook on the stove on a very low heat for a few minutes, until the dough becomes firm, smooth and homogeneous. The dough must be dry and detach from the bottom of the pan easily.
edium speed. Before adding the next egg make sure that everything is well blended. This way, the air will be incorporated into the dough and when baking it will make puff the Paris Brest which won’t deflate out of the oven.
4. If you don't have a standup mixer proceed mixing the eggs directly in the pan where you cooked the dough, after allowing it to cool down. Work the egg with the wooden spatula until all the egg is incorporated before adding the next one. The dough should be smooth, like a thick cream.
5. Cover the baking sheets with baking paper or a silpat mat. If you use baking paper you can trace some circles of 4¾ -inches (12 cm) to help you out piping the circles. I use a silpat mat that already is specially designed to help out piping, that could be helpful too. To pipe the Paris-Brest use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) plain nozzle and pipe two circles, the outer one of the diameter of the circle you drew. Pipe a third circle on top, using the star-shaped nozzle. If you don't have one use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
 6. Bake in a moderate oven 350°F/180° C/gas mark 4 for about 23-25 minutes, in a static oven. To get rid of any moisture in the oven you can keep the door slightly open. This way the dough will dry out completely during baking. The Paris-Brest should be golden brown, with a uniform color. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing and piping with the crème mousseline.

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole almonds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole hazelnuts
6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80 gm) caster sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1. Put the sugar into a non-stick pan, over medium heat. Add water and bring to a boil.
2. When the sugar reaches 250°F/121° C (without thermometer you will need to reach the stage at which the sugar begins to boil and the syrup starts to become more and more dense), add the nuts all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon to coat all the nuts in the sugar. At this point, the sugar will start to sand, i.e. crystallize again. Continue to stir. The sugar will melt a second time, this time caramelizing.
3. Once all the nuts caramelize, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the entire contents of the pan on a heat-resistant silicone mat or on a marble slab lightly oiled with vegetable oil.
4. Let cool completely. Break into smaller pieces and grind with a mixer until you have a thick paste.

Crème Mousseline
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2 egg yolks
¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (55 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoon (45 ml) (2/3 oz) (20 gm) cake flour, sieved
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) ( (4.4 oz) (125 gm) European-style butter, made from cream, with 83% fat content
3 oz (80 gm) praliné
1 vanilla pod, sliced open length wise
1. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod. Put aside and let cool for about 10 minutes. In a bowl whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become white.
2. Add the flour and whisk until all mixed through.
3. Mix half of the milk in the egg, until all uniform. Pout into a small pan and put on medium heat. Cook until the cream thickens, stirring the cream continuously. When thick transfer into a bowl and cover with cling film touching the cream. Let cool.
4. In a bowl mix the softened butter with the praliné. Add to the cooled cream until homogeneous.

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.

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