This recipe is a treat-sized take on the traditional Paris Brest choux pastry cake - a choux bun, with a mousseline filling, made from home-made hazelnut praline stirred through with pastry cream. The hazelnut praline in the filling makes the recipe a grown-up alternative to chocolate profiteroles, and a moreish afternoon treat.
The Paris Brest cake was first made in 1891 to celebrate the Paris to Brest bicycle race - its traditional circular shape designed to resemble a bicycle wheel. Before long it became a feature of window displays in pastry shops all over France and has been reinvented in many different forms since. Traditionally the sweet pastry choux buns are filled with a praline mousseline cream and topped with crunchy, slivered almonds.
Praline is difficult to get hold of in small quantities but it’s actually incredibly easy to make your own praline using hazelnut paste, and you often end up with a better result. Our home-made hazelnut praline recipe uses pure hazelnut paste to give the Paris Brest cream a more intense nutty flavour than many overly sweet, industrial pralines around. Sugar is cooked into caramel and deglazed with a little double cream before being added to the hazelnut paste and then folded into a simple, buttery pastry cream.
For the choux pastry Serves: 10
For the praline
- 40g pure hazelnut paste
- 40g caster sugar
- 30ml double cream
For the pastry cream
- 330ml whole milk
- 85g caster sugar
- 30g custard powder
- 3 large egg yolks (or around 55g yolk)
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
Make the choux pastry
- Preheat the oven to 210°C, or 190°C for a fan oven. Grease two baking trays or line them with baking parchment.
- Heat the water, milk, butter, salt and caster sugar together in a pan. When the butter has melted, remove from heat. Do not allow it to boil.
- Immediately tip in the sifted flour and stir quickly to combine.
- Move the pan back over a low heat, and stir the mixture (known as a ‘panade’) until it comes away easily from the sides of the pan.
- Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl and stir for 2-3 minutes until the mixture cools enough to add the egg.
- Add half the eggs in one go and stir vigorously to combine. Then slowly add the remaining egg, little by little – you may not need to use all of it! Keep checking the consistency. The mixture is ready when it looks very silky, and will drop from a spoon held at an angle above the mixture – ‘dropping consistency’. It shouldn’t be runny.
- Place the nozzle in the piping bag and fill with the mixture. Pipe small circles onto the greased baking trays around 3cm in diameter.
- Sprinkle them with the slivered almonds.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown and risen. Be sure not to open the oven for the first ten minutes as the choux buns may deflate.
- Transfer them to a cooling rack.
Make the hazelnut praline
- Next make the praline. Heat the caster sugar in a pan until it turns into a lightly coloured caramel. Remove from the heat, and pour in the cream stirring rapidly. Mix the liquid caramel with the pure hazelnut paste to create the praline.
Make the praline pastry cream
- Next make the pastry cream. Place the milk and roughly half the sugar in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile mix together the remaining the sugar with the custard powder. Add the egg yolk and mix with a whisk to make a thick paste.
- Pour a small amount of the boiling milk over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add it to the rest of the milk and return to the hob over a medium flame, whisking constantly. When it starts to boil reduce the heat whilst continuing to whisk for a minute.
- Off the heat add the butter, chopped into small pieces and the home-made praline you made previously.
- Pour it onto a baking tray or plate covered in cling film. Cover with another layer of cling film. If you're in a rush, place in the freezer for 20 minutes, until cool, then transfer to the fridge.
- In a stand mixer mix the cooled pastry cream with the 100g softened butter until silky and unctuous. Return to the fridge until ready to assemble the choux buns.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the choux buns in half horizontally.
- Place a nozzle in a piping bag and fill with the Paris Brest cream. Pipe the cream in swirls on the bases, put the tops back on and refrigerate the buns until you’re ready to eat them, ideally the same day.