Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Paris-Bres

Hi! So glad you could make it! I have been planning this party for over a month now, ever since I chose this recipe for our February pick. It's my first time hosting. Please forgive me if I seem a little nervous.  Were's my manners?! Come on in, sit down. Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a fresh pot of brewing and the Chocolate Paris-Brest just waiting to be eaten. Pretty isn't it? What's a Chocolate Paris-Brest you ask?  Well, it is a wheel-shaped cake that was created to celebrate a bicycle race from Paris to the city of Brest. It is not usually chocolate, and it's normally filled with mousseline and butter-cream, rather than a pastry cream, but this one is from Chocolate Epiphany and it is how Francois chose to interpret it. It's on page 165 of his book.

 Would you like to know how to make one? I must warn you; be prepared to wash some dishes. This lovely cake requires making some chocolate pâte à choux, and some chocolate pastry cream. Oh, and, you need to make some chocolate drops to put the finishing touches on the cake. Putting it together is simple, once you have all the parts made. :)

 Chocolate Paris-Brest
Chocolate Pâte à Choux (page 247)
Sliced blanched almonds
Chocolate Pastry Cream (page 245)
Confectioners' sugar
Chocolate Drops (page 259)

I guess we will make the Chocolate drops first, then they can set up while we work on everything else. I am not going to go into all the details about tempering chocolate. I will assume you already know that. 

Chocolate Drops
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and prepare tempered chocolate of the type desired as directed on page 254. Place a drop of tempered chocolate on the parchment paper, and with the tip of a small offset spatula, drag its center out to create a teardrop shape. Don't drag too much, or the chocolate will be too thin and a hole might form in the drop. Use these to decorate the Chocolate Paris-Brest.

Pretty simple right? We will let those set up while we move on to the cake itself. Would you like another cup of coffee? 
Okay, let's start the cake part by placing a rack in the center of the oven and preheating it to 425 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to the dimensions of your baking sheet. With a dark pencil or pen, trace a 6-inch circle on the parchment. Place the paper on the baking sheet, circle facing down. You should be able to see it through the paper. 

Now, lets make the Pâte à Choux. You will use the ingredients below to make a chocolate version. Prepare as for Pâte à Choux, adding the cocoa powder when you add the flour.
7 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder

     Combine butter and salt with 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the flour (and cocoa powder), then reduce the heat to low, and vigorously mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together in a thick paste and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes.
     Remove the dough from the heat and place it in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed, incorporating the eggs one at a time. Do not add an egg until the previous one is completely incorporated. Mix until the dough forms a smooth mass. Add the baking powder.
     Fit a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner cut with a 1/2-inch star or round tip, and fill it with the warm dough. Pipe a continuous circle of dough just inside the circle you drew on the parchment paper. It should be about 1/2 inch thick. Pipe another circle just inside the first one, making sure that they touch. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, over the line where they touch. Sprinkle the almonds over the circles, and bake for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the dough turns golden brown, and has puffed, and looks dry and sturdy. Remove from the oven, and let cool on the baking sheet.

Still with me? Good. Now, lets make the Chocolate Pastry Cream while the cake cools. Prepare as for Pastry Cream, whisking the cocoa powder into the milk before you bring it to a boil. Add the chocolate when you whisk in the butter.
Chocolate Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbls. cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2 ounces 100% chocolate, chopped
1 Tbls. butter

     Line a shallow pan, such as a 9-inch cake pan or a small rimmed baking sheet, with plastic wrap.
     Pour the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat as soon as small bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
     Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, and whisk in the egg yolks. Continue whisking until the yolks turn a very pale yellow. Slowly pour a fourth of the milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Once the milk is well incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with the whisk to prevent lumps from forming, until it becomes very thick and bubbles start popping from the center of the pan for at least 20 seconds. You need to bring it to a boil so that the cornstarch gets activated.
     Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter (and chocolate) until it is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the pastry cream into the prepared pan and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use. 

Alright. We have our Chocolate drops, our Chocolate Pâte à Choux and our Chocolate Pastry Cream. Let's put this cake together, shall we?

     Place the pâte à choux cake in front of you, and cut it horizontally with a serrated knife. The base part of the cake will be hollow. 
     Fit a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner cut with a 1/2-inch star tip, and fill it with the pastry cream. Pipe the cream in the open cavity in the base of the cake, with a little back-and-forth movement of the hand to create a wavy effect. Let the cream go a little over the edge so that it can be seen when covered. Place the top part of the cake over the cream. Pipe rosettes of pastry cream, about 1 inch wide and 1/2 inch tall, at regular intervals over the top of the cake.
     Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and place a chocolate drop in each rosette of pastry cream. Transfer to a serving platter, and serve.

And, that's it! Not the easiest cake in the world to put together, but then again, it's not the hardest!  Sure, it takes a little time, but, the taste? Ooo, la la!  What a reward! The cake itself has an intense chocolate flavor, without being sweet. It is crisp on the outside, and then airy and light on the inside.  The chocolate pastry cream...just give me a spoon next time! Creamy, smooth, chocolate-y and oh so rich. The perfect compliment to the cake. An occasional crunch from the almonds scattered on top finishes off the whole thing.  What a wonderfully decadent,  rich dessert, don't you agree?

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your visit. I know I did. Perhaps we can do this again sometime. Till then.....Au Revoir!


  1. Yes, thank you, I would like a cup of coffee and a piece of Chocolate Paris-Brest. It looks fabulous!

  2. My goodness, that is one beautiful dessert! I would love to stay and have a slice. I'm not sure if I have the patience to create something like this, so impressive.

  3. Gorgeous, I like the variation of this using cocoa. You can NEVER go wrong with chocolate.

  4. Susan: you did a fantastic job. love the way you presented the post.
    As for the Paris didn't work for us. It was so bland and tasteless. Not sure where I went wrong. I didn't pull my usual tricks and try to change anything. Oh well, we all know you can't please everyone.

  5. Susan: Looks beautiful! Wonderful post, I felt like I was baking along with you. Which is the closest I got to baking this one :)

  6. Wow, great job, Susan! Your Paris-Brest turned out perfectly. That looks insanely rich and delicious.

  7. Susan,
    What a fun post.Just as if I were a visitor in your kitchen. The cake looks fantastic and would be delicious with my coffee.

  8. OMG - this looks amazing Susan!!! You did a fabulous job on a complex dessert.

  9. It looks absolutely beautiful Susan. I'm disappointed that I didn't get to bake this one along with you but so happy for you that it turned out so well!

  10. Fantastic job, Susan! I loved the flavor of this one. Yours looks even better than the book! Thanks for picking a great recipe.


Please let me know what you think. I love to hear from other bakers.