from: http://frenchfood.about.com/library/weekly/aa070402a.htm [Nope -link now redirected]
A cream filled pastry in the shape of a bicycle wheel
Paris-Brest is a ring-shaped pastry, filled with cream and sprinkled with almonds and powdered sugar. It was created in 1891 by a Parisian pastry cook whose pâtisserie was situated along the route of the bicycle race from Paris to Brest. His idea was to bake his éclairs in the shape of bicycle wheels in honor of all the cyclists. Great marketing idea! This race was a precursor to the Tour de France which was started in 1903.
Paris-Brest can be made as one large ring or as individual pastries. Although the recipe looks daunting at first, most of the ingredients can be made ahead. You could start with the crème pâtissière and the praline. The next day make the choux pastry and the next day bake and assemble it. It's a delicious and impressive dessert and a great way to kick off the Tour de France race. Make it for your racing fans and get ready to follow the tour through France. Allons!
Here are the directions:
1. Toast about 1-1/2 cups of slivered almonds until golden and set aside.
* 2/3-cup of unsalted butter
* 1¾-cups all purpose flour, sifted twice
* pinch of salt
* 7 eggs
* 1 Tablespoon superfine sugar
1. Melt the butter with 1½ cups water in a saucepan, then bring it to a rolling boil.
2. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once with a pinch of salt.
3. Return to the heat and beat continuously with a wooden spoon to make a smooth shiny paste that comes away from the side of the pan. Cool for a few minutes.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until shiny and smooth. The mixture should drop off the spoon but not be too runny.
5. Beat in the sugar. (Can be stored in a pastry bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
(makes about 2½ cups)
* 6 egg yolks
* ½ cup sugar
* pinch of salt
* ¼ cup all cornstarch
* 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
* 2 ¼ cups whole milk
* 1 vanilla bean
* 1 Tbs butter
1. Whisk the egg yolks and half the sugar together until they become pale and creamy.
2. Sift in the cornstarch and flour and mix well.
3. Put the milk, the rest of the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then strain over the egg yolk mixture, stirring continuously.
4. Pour back into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. It will be lumpy but will become smooth as you continue stirring.
5. Boil for 2 minutes, then stir in the butter. Allow the mixture to cool completely. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator).
* 1/3 cup superfine sugar
* 1/3 cup water
* 1 cup toasted almonds
1. Grease a sheet of aluminum foil and lay it flat on the work surface.
2. Put the sugar in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup of water and heat gently until dissolved.
3. Bring to a boil and cook until deep golden, then quickly pour in the sliced almonds and pour onto the greased foil. Spread it out a little and allow to cold.
4. When the praline has hardened, grind it to a fine powder in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle.
5. Mix it into the cold crème pâtissière.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE PARIS-BREST:
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Put the choux pastry in a pastry bag with a ¾ inch wide tip.
2. Draw an 8-inch circle on the back of a piece of parchment paper in a dark pen so that the circle shows through on the other side. Put the paper on the baking sheet, pen side down.
3. Pipe a ring of pastry over the guide. Then, pipe another ring of pastry directly INSIDE the first one so that you have a thick ring.
4. Pipe another two circles on top of the first two and continue building up, until all the pastry has been used.
5. Brush the ring with beaten egg and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.
6. Bake the ring for 20-30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350° and bake for another 20-25 minutes.
7. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack.
8. Immediately slice the ring in half horizontally, making the base twice as deep as the top.
9. Take off the top and scoop out any uncooked pastry from the base. Allow to cool completely.
10. Spoon the crème patissière into the bottom of the choux pastry ring and cover with the top.
11. Dust with confectioner's sugar and almonds and serve.
Je vous souhaite bonne chance et bon appétit!