Tada, it’s a Paris-Brest (“a Paris what?”), just in time for the magical February 29th! A Paris-Brest is traditionally made with choux pastry and praline cream, and was created to honour the Paris-Brest-Paris bike race… it’s circular to represent the bike wheel.
I think it gives you a bit more freedom in terms of how you want to present it compared to regular cream puffs, just because its shape inherently gives you more surface area to work with. Conceptually I was going for a chestnut-taro Paris-Brest, but I’d never tried using canned chestnut puree before and was disappointed to find that its texture was like, well, chestnut meat / cat food, haha. So I did a quick switcharoo to a vanilla bean pastry cream and homemade taro paste.
Oh yah, for those of you unfamiliar with taro, it’s a root vegetable and is quite starchy. It’s very versatile and used in many different ways in Chinese cuisine. You can eat it savoury by braising it with beef or pork, you can turn it into deep fried curry taro dumplings (a personal favourite) for dim sum or taro cake (often eaten during New Years). It’s also very common in dessert, and I bet you’ve seen it before on a bubble tea menus. It has a naturally sweet nutty flavour, reminiscent of a sweet potato except less sweet and more vanilla-y, so it lends itself quite well to dessert. Apparently in Hawaii, McDonalds offers taro pie…. mmm…?
The foundation of the pastry is a pate a choux, which you’ve seen before on this blog– the critical step is cooking the choux long enough on the stove to evaporate as much moisture as possible (but not over-doing it), and then adding enough eggs to the batter until a “bird’s beak” consistency is achieved… aka. it should hold its shape and turn down over itself, but not break off.
The taro paste is made simply out of taro (steamed) and blended with sugar to taste. Its texture actually turned out very thick, rich and buttery due to its starch. If taro isn’t your thing, of course you can just stick with just the vanilla bean pastry cream. The vanilla bean pastry cream is a little thin to hold up on its own when it’s presented in this way, so next time I might go with a mousseline cream instead.
As for piping, you can certainly use a stencil, or just freehand it (so that it’s more “rustic”). Pipe one circle, leaving an inner hole with a diameter of about 4 inches… you’ll notice that they expand quite a bit, so the “hole” will end up much smaller. Pipe another concentric circle inside of your first one. Lastly, pipe one more circle on top, so that the base is 2x thicker than the top.
After baking, decorate to your heart’s content– I chose to glaze it with strawberry jam, stick some pearl sugar onto it, as well as berries and edible flowers.
This “recipe” is a lot more flexible and is really just showing how the same components of a cream puff can be transformed into its pastry cousin, that you can easily dress up. Dominique Ansel is doing a Snickers version of this with caramel, chocolate and peanuts, and is calling it a Paris-New York. Philippe Conticini does an incomparable one with praline cream. So really, this pastry can be a canvas for your heart’s desires as far as flavours go 🙂
So give it a go, make it your own, and I’d love to see how you transform the Paris-Brest!
Vanilla Bean Taro Paris-Brest
- 350 g all-purpose flour
- 66 g sugar
- 480 g water
- 240 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 5 g kosher salt
- 500 g eggs
Vanilla bean pastry cream
- 2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 vanilla pod (or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large taro
- 1/2-1/3 cup granulated sugar, to taste
- strawberry jam
- pearl sugar
- edible flowers
- Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl.
- Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan, place over medium heat, and stir as the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and, with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon, stir in all of the flour. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean; the dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
- Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 grams at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue adding the eggs, reserving 25 grams, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with the paddle but then grabs back on again.
- Increase the speed to medium and mix for 15 seconds to be sure all of the eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer. When the paddle if lifted, the dough should form a bird’s beak – it should hold its shape and turn down over itself but not break off. If the dough is too stiff, add the reserved egg.
- Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and chill the dough until cold, about 20 minutes. Pipe the dough on the silpat or parchment. Pipe one circle, leaving an inner hole with a diameter of about 4 inches… you’ll notice that they expand quite a bit, so the “hole” will end up much smaller. Pipe another concentric circle inside of your first one. Lastly, pipe one more circle on top, so that the base is 2x thicker than the top.
- Put the choux rings into the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 40-45 minutes, OR until light golden brown (watch for this instead of strictly adhering to the time). Lower the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for about 10 minutes, until the puffs are light and feel hollow. Break one open if necessary: the centre should appear completely cooked.
- Set the pan on a cooking rack and cool completely before filling.
Vanilla bean pastry cream
- Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, vanilla bean seeds + pod, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
- Whisk yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar begins to dissolve and mixture is creamy. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick.
- Take out the vanilla bean pod and discard. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk half-and-half mixture into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to pan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
- Return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy. This takes about a minute.
- Off heat, whisk in butter. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over medium bowl. This will remove any curdled bits that might have formed during the cooking process.
- Press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream to prevent skimming and refrigerate until cold and ready to use, at least 2 hours.
- Prepare a steamer (eg. steaming rack over a large pot).
- Peel and roughly cut the taro into 2 inch cubes. Steam for 10-15 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Transfer steamed taro into a blender (preferably Blentec/Vitamix) and add 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup of granulated sugar (to your preference). Puree until smooth and creamy.
- When ready to serve, cut a choux ring in half horizontally, then pipe or spoon the vanilla bean pastry cream and taro paste into the ring, alternating them. Replace the top.
- Brush the top with warm strawberry jam, and sprinkle pearl sugar on top. Decorate with flowers/berries if desired. Best eaten fresh after assembly, or you can keep it refrigerated for 1-2 days. Enjoy!