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.