Choux-laa-laa… A Paris-Brest of sorts.

The iconic Paris-Brest dessert was created in honour of the Paris to Brest bike race which started in 1891. Circular in shape to represent a bicycle tyre, and typically filled with a praline cream, this choux pastry sensation can still be found in patisseries all over France. There’s an incredible garden centre near us which makes amazing cakes and pastries, my favourite of which is a Coffee Renoir, which they make in the same shape as a Paris-Brest. It’s filled with pastry cream and whipped cream, then doused in coffee icing and almonds. I’m a sucker for anything with creme pat in it, so thought I’d have a go at recreating it at home. Granted, my bike tyre looks like it has a puncture, but hey ho, looks aren’t everything!

For the choux pastry you’ll need:
130g plain flour
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
100g butter
4 free range eggs beaten
240ml water

Put the butter and water in a pan and heat until it starts to simmer. At this point dump in all the flour and sugar and beat hard with a wooden spoon. If your bingo wings aren’t flapping you’re not beating hard enough!

The dough will form a smooth ball. Leave to cool until it’s tepid then drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time beating hard again until the egg is incorporated before adding more. You should end up with a glossy paste. Put it in a piping bag and pipe a circle on a well greased baking sheet. Pipe another circle touching the inside of the first one, then a third one on top of the first two.

Bake at 210oC for 15 minutes, then, without opening the oven door turn the temperature down to 180oC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and immediately poke repeatedly with a skewer to let the hot air escape and avoid the dreading shrinking choux.

When cool enough to handle carefully slice into two halves and allow to cool completely.
Now, as I mentioned earlier I’m filling this with creme pat which will need to chill in the fridge for at least three hours (preferably longer), so you may want to bake it the day before. You’ll need:
750ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out.
150g caster sugar
6 free range egg yolks
60g cornflour

Heat the milk in a pan with the vanilla pod and seeds gently until it comes to a simmer. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together until light in colour then whisk in the cornflour. Sieve the milk mixture into a jug and pour half of it back into the pan. Slowly pour the remaining milk into the egg, sugar and cornflour mixture whisking continuously. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the other half of the milk and whisk until it has thickened. Put into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.

Once it has chilled and set pipe it onto the bottom half of the choux circle.
Now whip some cream with icing sugar to sweeten and a teaspoon of vanilla. The cream needs to hold its form, but be careful not to over whip. Pipe it on top of the creme pat.

Put the top on and drizzle with coffee icing. To make the icing dissolve a heaped teaspoon of instant coffee in a tiny amount of boiling water to make a bit of a paste. Once cooled pour the paste a bit at a time into some sieved icing sugar. Taste. Add more sugar or coffee to taste. Pipe over the top and sprinkle with almond slices.



Simply stunning and stunningly simple fruit tartlets

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I don’t know about you but I find great satisfaction in serving guests scrumptious little morsels that taste as delicious as they look. These fruit tartlets definitely fall into the edible art category, but they are ridiculously simple to boot. Happy days.

Firstly, make a Creme Patissiere (pastry cream).This can be made the day before and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. I used Raymond Blanc’s recipe on the BBC website:

Cut sheets of filo into squares and put one square into each hole in a cupcake tray, brush with butter the repeat until you have three layers. Bake for around 8 minutes until golden and crispy.

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Cut up whatever fruit takes your fancy. I used clementine, grapes, strawberries and blueberries.

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Spoon the Creme Patissiere into the filo tartlet cases and adorn with the fruit. Dust with icing sugar et voila. Enjoy immediately.

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