I fancied making some sort of cream bun this week. I’d had a flashback to the “Naughty But Nice” adverts of the 70s and 80s. Remember them? Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, Larry Grayson… I had a flick through the Books to find something suitably indulgent and decided to try the Paris-Brest recipe from Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple.
Paris-Brest is a wheel-shaped choux pastry bun filled with praline cream, which was created to commemorate the Paris to Brest cycle race. Paris-Brest has been a technical challenge on a Sports Relief version of the Great British Bake Off, and you can find Mary Berry’s Paris Brest recipe here.
There were multiple challenges with this one. Choux pastry for a start, then a crème mousseline. I have attempted one these before, when I made my fraisier. The crème mousseline didn’t work out too well, but the fraisier itself was good. Perhaps I’d have better luck this time. Oh, and as well as the pastry and the mousseline, there was also praline to contend with. I have trouble with anything involving caramel.
A Two Day Bake
Edd Kimber’s recipe is one of those that involves multiple recipes. There was the choux pastry on page 156 and the hazelnut praline paste on page 184. Once I’d read the three recipes I needed, I realised that there was no way I could get everything done all in one go. I decided to make the praline paste and the crème mousseline, and to put the pastry (and assembly) on hold.
The recipe for the praline paste used 150g of blanched hazelnuts and the same amount of caster sugar. I needed 75g of the paste for the Paris-Brest. I wasn’t sure how the quantities would work out. Would 150g hazelnuts and 150g of caster sugar yield 300g of paste? I used 40g of nuts and sugar. With any luck, that would be enough for 75g of paste.
Anyway, I roasted the hazelnuts at 160° fan for 10 minutes (the recipe time is between 10 and 15 minutes. My nuts would have burned if they’d had that long). While they were cooling, I melted the caster sugar. This is where I’ve gone wrong in the past. I’ve usually ended up with a burned mess, and I’m never sure whether or not I should be stirring or swirling the sugar as it melts.
This time, the recipe was clear. No stirring allowed. I didn’t have much sugar in the pan, so there wasn’t much to swirl, but I did try to move it around a bit so that it all melted at the same time. Once it was a dark amber colour, I poured it over the hazelnuts. Well, I say I poured it. I didn’t pour much of it because most of it crystallised on the side of the saucepan. With a combination of pouring and scraping, I just about managed to coat the nuts.
Once the caramel had set, I broke the praline into chunks and put them into the food processor. The recipe says that you pulse until the chunks have broken down, and then you process them until you have a smooth paste.
Edd Kimber explains that this could take some time and may even involve two stages because your processor might overheat. Wow!
I suppose it’s because I didn’t have very many nuts to process, but I had a smooth paste in no time. It’s funny, because I expected to end up with a powder, but, just as Edd said they would, the nuts released their oils and my praline turned into paste. With a bit less sugar, this could be a good trick to get the children eating more nuts. In terms of quantities, I ended up with just a bit under 75g.
Crême mousseline is crème patissiere with extra butter. I’m still not great at making crème patissiere and it wasn’t any different this time. I put vanilla bean paste and wholemilk into a pan and whisked eggs, a couple of extra yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a bowl, while the milk heated up. Once the milk started to boil I poured it into the KitchenAid (which was still whisking). Then, as quickly as I could, I stopped the whisk, poured the mixture back into the pan, took up my balloon whisk and started whisking again.
As usually happens when I attempt custard, I thought everything was fine and then discovered a layer of scrambled egg at the bottom of the pan. I tried to dislodge the scrambled egg and kept whisking. My custard did end up a bit lumpy, but I thought it tasted OK. I stirred in some butter, covered the custard in clingfilm and left it to chill.
To make the custard into crème mousseline I had to add more butter. First, I beat the butter in the KitchenAid and then I gradually added the custard. Finally, I added the praline paste. It may not have looked particularly pretty (I could still see a couple of lumpy bits) but it did taste good. I wonder how much better it would be if I actually managed a successful custard for once in my life.
I think I may have attempted profiteroles once, but it was a really, really long time ago. I certainly haven’t tried it since I started Let’s Bake the Books. It requires piping doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided it for so long.
Anyway, before thinking about piping I had to get the pastry made. This was one of those recipes where you have to measure everything out first, because you need to work quickly. I put butter, salt and water into a pan (there was supposed to be a teaspoon of sugar in there as well, but I forgot it) and a mixture of plain and strong white bread flour into a bowl. Then I beat two eggs and had another one standing by in case my mixture needed more liquid.
I heated the pan until the butter/water started to boil. Once I had a rolling boil, I added the flours and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon (the recipe says that the spoon has to be a wooden one) for a couple of minutes. I put the dough into a bowl, realised that I had forgotten the sugar, added some sugar, and stirred.
I’ve only just noticed that the recipe says that you should stir the dough until it stops steaming before you add the egg. I’m not sure whether I did this or not. Anyway, I added my egg in two stages and beat it into the mixture.
There are some really helpful pictures in Patisserie Made Simple that show you how the dough should look when it’s ready. It should fall off your spoon in a V shape. Once I had a V shape, I put the pastry into a piping bag which I’d fitted with the widest nozzle I have. I piped eight rings onto two baking sheets.
They went into the oven at 160° fan for 35 minutes. About twenty minutes in, I decided to risk opening the oven door and swapping shelves, since the top shelf was cooking faster than the bottom. Once all of the wheels were golden brown, I turned off the oven and left them in there to cool. The shelf swapping didn’t appear to have done any harm.
To assemble my Paris-Brest I had to cut the rings/wheels in half. I managed to cut four of them. The others broke. I took the crème mouselline out of the fridge, gave it a stir and filled a piping bag. Next, I filled my four whole wheels with the cream and then realised that I should have coated the cakes with egg and almonds before I baked them. I sandwiched the wheels together, sprinkled some almonds on the top and gave them a quick dust with icing sugar. Here are the ones that made it.
Was it worth it?
Well, the cakes were very good, the hazelnut filling especially, and I’m glad that I made them. The thing is though, I ended up with only four edible cakes. Choux pastry doesn’t taste very nice without something yummy in the middle, so the cakes (or bits of pastry as they are now) won’t get eaten. It also took me ages to make them. So, while the Paris-Brest were worth it for the taste, I think, the next time I fancy something “Naughty But Nice” I’ll probably take the easy way out and pop to Tesco for an eclair.
In the meantime though, I do have rather a lot of crème mouselline to use.
Let me know if you have any good ideas on what to make with it. I think I smell a batch of cupcakes coming on at the least.