Paris-Brest is one of those pastries that’s made from things you probably already know how to make, just assembled in a different way. The proportions are rough because Paris-Brest is not an exact science. Or perhaps I should say that making it an exact science spoils the fun. Like most classic recipes, there are many possible ways to prepare Paris-Brest. The choux shell is a constant, but they can be any size, round or éclair-shaped, filled with either pastry cream, buttercream or whipped cream (or a combination) and flavored with praline, coffee, vanilla or whatever your inspiration may dictate. It goes (roughly) like so:
For the Shell
1 1/2 recipes pâte à choux
1 egg yolk
about 2 ounces sliced, blanched almonds
powdered sugar for dusting
For the Filling
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, trace a circle 10 inches in diameter (do this on the back side of the paper with a pencil, then turn the sheet over…you’ll still be able to see it). Place the choux in a pastry bag without a tip or coupler and pipe it in a circle along the line. Then pipe another circle just inside it. Pipe one more circle on top, in the middle of the other two, and you’re ready to go. Paint the choux with the beaten egg yolk, sprinkle the almonds all over and insert the sheet pan in the oven.
Bake 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 and bake another 25 minutes or so until puffy and golden. Turn off the heat, prop open the oven door, and allow the ring to cool slowly in the oven for about another 30 minutes. Remove the sheet pan to the counter and allow the ring to cool completely.
Meanwhile, combine the pastry cream and praline paste and beat well until the mixture is uniform. Prepare the Chantilly cream and place it in a pastry bag with a large star tip. When ready to assemble, gently slice off the top third of the ring with a serrated knife and set it aside. Spoon the pastry cream into the bottom of the shell, the top it with the Chantilly cream. Slice the top of the ring into serving-sized pieces and replace them on the top of the pastry (this will make it easier to slice later). Dust your Paris-Brest with powdered sugar and serve.