Paris Brest with a Chocolate Mousse Filling - The Sweet Rebellion
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Paris Brest with a Chocolate Mousse Filling

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The Paris Brest was created in 1910 by Chef Louis Durand and is simply a ring of choux pastry that is filled (traditionally with a praline mousseline cream) and decorated with almonds. The origin of the name is an old bicycle race between Paris and the city of Brest in Brittany – the circular shape of the pastry is intended to represent a bicycle wheel. I decided to fill mine with an easy chocolate mousse, which is deliciously creamy and rich with the crunchy pastry, and not too sweet.

Choux pastry, unlike other pastries, is a rather wet dough that bakes into a light and crisp pastry with a hollow centre. No leavening agents are added to the batter – it is the large quantity of liquid in the mixture that evaporates to steam and results in the rise and hollow centre. As a result, choux pastries (eclairs, profiteroles, croquembouche) are perfect for filling with a cream or thick custard.

As with all choux pastry, it is important to pierce the baked Paris Brest to release any steam inside. If this is not done, the pastry may collapse from the build up of moisture while it cools.

Ingredients:

Choux Pastry
100g salted butter (7 tbsp)
125ml milk (½ cup)
125ml water (½ cup)
10ml sugar (2 tsp)
140g bread flour (1 cup)
4 large eggs

Chocolate Mousse filling:
100ml full cream milk
1½ gelatine sheets (3g)
50ml water
100g milk chocolate 
50g dark chocolate
250ml cream (1 cup)

To decorate:
30ml milk (2 tbsp)
40g flaked almonds (½ cup)
45ml icing sugar (3 tbsp)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper. Trace a circle around a 20cm round cake tin with a pencil and turn the paper over (or the pencil will mark the pastry).
  • To make the choux pastry place the butter, milk, water and sugar into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat the mixture until the butter has melted, and the mixture starts to come to a boil.
  • Add the bread flour all at once, and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, pressing the dough against the sides of the saucepan.
  • Place the dough into a mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer). Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs to a small jug and beat well. Using an electric or stand mixer, gradually add the beaten eggs to the dough, mixing well after each addition. The mixture may appear curdled but just keep on mixing, it will come together.
  • Place the pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe a circle of choux pastry around the outer edge of the traced circle, then another circle of pastry inside that (touching the first). Lastly, pipe a third circle of pastry on top of and overlapping the other two. The pastry can be frozen at this point for up to 3 months and baked directly from frozen.
  • Gently brush the pastry with milk and sprinkle with the almonds. Right after placing in the oven, splash a cup of water onto the oven floor. It will form steam which will help the Paris Brest to rise. Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Immediately after removing from the oven, pierce 6 holes in the side of the pastry ring with a skewer to allow steam to escape. Leave to cool completely.
  • To make the chocolate mousse, break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a heatproof bowl. Cover the gelatine sheets in the water and set aside to hydrate.
  • Bring the milk to a boil, then pour over the chocolate and stir well until completely melted. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine sheets and then add to the warm chocolate mixture. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  • Whip the cream until soft peak stage, then fold into the cooled chocolate mixture. Place into a piping bag fitted with a plain or star nozzle, and refrigerate until needed.
  • When you are ready to serve, slice the pastry ring in half with a serrated knife. Pipe the chocolate mousse onto the lower half of the pastry then place the other half on top. Sift over the icing sugar and serve.

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