Making Paris-Brest

There are an awful lot of flavors and textures at work in this simple pastry. Crunchy toasted almonds, spongy/chewy choux, rich but light chantilly cream and beneath it all a luxurious almond-praline pastry cream. Put it together and you’ve got something even one of today’s hyper-fit long-distance cyclists would find hard to resist. You want to have most of the components ready before you begin: pâte à choux batter loaded into a large pastry bag, praline paste and pastry cream. With all that at-the-ready, you can get down to baking and building. Preheat your oven to 425.

Start with your piping guide. Secure a circular object that’s 10″ across. This pan lid (which I obviously haven’t cleaned in quite some time) is almost exactly 10″ across.

I’ll trace it onto a piece of parchment paper with a pen or pencil.

A circle more or less.

When I flip the sheet over, and as you can see, I can still see it clearly.

Now for the batter. Pipe a thick stream of batter along the guide line. The trick here is to keep the tip well off the parchment sheet. Apply firm pressure and let the batter fall out of the bag from an altitude of an inch or more. Otherwise, if the batter is in contact with the surface, it will spread out (no good).

Do another line inside the first one. Yes, you’ll get some air pockets. Don’t worry in the least about them.

Now pipe one more one top of the other two, right in the middle. You probably won’t use up all your batter. Make a few éclair shells with the leftovers. Fully baked, they freeze very well in plastic bags.

Now gently score the batter with a fork. this will keep the batter from bulging and/or breaking off in odd directions.

Apply some egg wash (this is two yolks thinned with about a teaspoon of water).

Apply the sliced almonds and put the pan in the oven for fifteen minutes. Lower the heat to 375, bake another 20 minutes, rotate the pan and bake another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make your pastry cream filling. Add the praline paste to the pastry cream…

…and whisk to combine. It’s a bit of an odd color, no? The French version is even darker because their commercially-made praline paste is deep brown (I think they make it with the hazelnut skins on).

Bake your ring until it looks about like this:

Then turn your oven off, prop the door open and allow it to dry for about another half an hour or more. When the ring is completely cool, slide it onto your work surface. It may flatten out some, this is normal. Poke a small, sharp knife through the choux ring horizontally. Once the hole is made, insert a larger serrated knife (like this bread knife) through and gently saw the top half of the pastry off.

Don’t try to lift the whole top off in one piece since it can easily tear. Rather, cut it into portion-sized slices and move them to the periphery of the ring. Pre-cutting the top in this way will make the pastry MUCH easier to slice at serving time.

Slather on your pastry cream. Be generous but don’t go crazy since there’s more to come.

Now make your Chantilly cream and load it into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Can’t pipe? Neither can I. Just apply firm pressure and extrude the cream in large blobs. That’s all you need.

Replace the top sections…

…and dust your entire creation with powdered sugar.

Pretty, yes? And to think that in some circles Paris-Brest is considered an ugly pastry. Now all you need to do is slip the pastry off your work surface and onto a serving platter of your choice. This one is going into a box so I can take it over to U of L where it will be consumed by malnourished grad students. Do with yours what you will, but keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

31 thoughts on “Making Paris-Brest”

  1. all that work. wow. you do make it look way easier than a food show would. its funny, when i make desserts that are laborious and then watch my friends eat them in 5 minutes flat i think all that hard work, poof, gone. but then the compliments come and it’s all good. lol

    1. I certainly know how you feel. Sending these to my wife’s department is a lot like feeding cookies to the Cookie Monster. There’s a brief frenzy and it’s over.

  2. Ahhh, just lovely. 🙂 It would almost be worth becoming a malnourished grad student just to get some.

  3. Wow! Lucky grad students.

    This looks like an excellent pastry to make if you want to impress someone hehe

    1. I don’t know if they’ll be impressed, but they will certainly stuff their faces. They’re handy that way. They keep me from having to eat all this myself! ;),

  4. Man, I am so glad you and your evil temptations are half a continent away from my waistline.

    Once again, the French would be proud.

    (Got any plans for a sugar-free version?)

  5. I’ve been meaning to make eclairs for myself and my roommate, but didn’t want to make an entire batch of pate a choux just for two eclairs. Now I have something to do with the rest of it! This looks delightful.

    1. I highly encourage you to try this. Alternately, just make a big batch of éclair shells and freeze them. You never know when they might come in handy!

  6. All of the many Paris-Brest cakes I’ve eaten in Paris use a praline creme mousseline (pastry cream enriched with a lot of butter), a pure praline butter cream, or a praline pastry cream mixed with butter cream. The large versions (vs the small indiviual ones) often have an “inner tube” or ring that is baked separately, then inserted when the main cake is split. It creates a higher cake and a higher pastry to cream ratio, which is good since they use the butter enriched creams. I vaguely remember Julia Child using the pastry cream plus Chantilly version, which I’ve never encountered in Paris. However they’re made, though, I’m a huge fan of le Paris-Brest.

  7. I made this for a fancy dinner party, one that included several Actual French People. It was a smash hit success, even though I forgot to dust it with powdered sugar before serving. Make it exactly like Joe says, and you can’t go wrong. I took Joe’s advice and walked on the wild side by adding two ounces of melted chocolate to the praline, and it was enough to make fans of even the chocolate lovers. By the way, watching the pate choux eventually puff up in your oven, after just sitting there for the first few minutes, is one of the great joys of baking.

    1. Wow, even the AFP’s liked it. I’ll be feeling good about myself all day!

  8. I made this in pastry class yesterday and it was delicious. We didn’t put pastry cream in it, just the praline paste along with the whipped cream. I’m sure it’s delicious with the pastry cream too!

    1. Hey Mary Ann! Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong with this no matter what you put in it! Try the pastry cream sometime though, it’s pretty stunning.

      Thanks for checking in!

      – Joe

  9. Delicious!!! I made this for Christmas day and got rave reviews! It was so much fun to make and the results where well worth all of the extra steps. 🙂 I made the praline creme and custard a day ahead.

    1. I LOVE making this pastry, Natalya. I’m so glad you did too! What is it about it that’s so much darn fun??

      Thanks so much for the note!

      – Joe

  10. Hi, I was just wondering if I could make this the day before and leave it covered in the fridge? And also how long will the praline paste last in the fridge? I was just going to make it a week or so earlier when I had enough time. Thankyou

    1. Hello Gabrielle!

      Paris-Brest is one of those things that doesn’t hold all that well. My suggestion is to make up the pastry ring and pastry cream a day ahead, then do the rest the day of. You can fold in the praline paste and whip the cream, pipe it on and there you go! Also, praline paste will keep for weeks in the fridge.

      – Joe

  11. Ignore the praline question joe, I just saw a previous answer saying about a week in the fridge. If you could just let me know how much prior I can make this before serving would be great.

  12. Hi Joe,

    I’ve had your blog as my homepage since I discovered it almost two years ago! I followed your Paris-Brest recipe today and due to a lack of praline and time to make a creme patissiere, I filled it with a chestnut puree laced with melted dark chocolate and whipped cream. Delicious! Look forward to doing it again the proper way though!


    1. Wow! Nice improvisation, Tanyeem! Wish I’d been there to taste it!

      – Joe

  13. Hi joe,
    This looks great!

    I’m going to make this to bring in to school, would it be best to prepare the ring and fillings, then assemble in class? Or would I be able to make it the morning of

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Emma!

      It’ll hold for several hours provided it doesn’t get too warm (you might use stabilized whipped cream if it is warmer, check the Pastry Components menu). If you can keep it in the fridge, it will hold all day. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator your idea about assembling it during a break is a good one.

      Good luck with it and let me know how it turns out!

      – Joe

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