Makes: 8 individual cakes
For the butter cream
- 4 cups (1l) milk
- 12 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups (9oz./250g) sugar
- 1 ⅔ cups (6oz./170g) all-purpose flour
- 9 sticks (2 ¼ lb./1kg) butter, cubed
- 1 ¾ lb. (850g) praline paste, available at specialty stores or online, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (300ml) whipping cream, 30–35 percent butterfat
For the choux pastry
- ½ cup (125ml) milk
- ½ cup (125ml) water
- 7 tablespoons (3 ½ oz./100g) butter
- 2 tablespoons (1oz./25g) granulated sugar
- 1 scant teaspoon (4g) salt
- 1 ¼ cups (4 ½ oz./125g) all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- A handful of slivered almonds
1Prepare the butter cream a day ahead.
2Bring the milk to a boil. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is thick and pale. Stir in the flour, mix well, and pour the boiling milk over the mixture, stirring as you do so. Return the mixture to the stove, and simmer, stirring constantly, until it is thick (the consistency should be that of pastry cream). Leave to cool a little; then gradually stir in the cubed butter. Mix well. Gradually stir in the praline and mix through. Chill for at least 12 hours.
3To prepare the choux pastry, add the milk, water, salt, and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil. Pour in the flour, mix well, and simmer gently, stirring all the while, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan.
4Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
5Remove the pan from the heat, and mix in the eggs, one by one, stirring well each time.
6Spoon the dough into a pastry bag and pipe out a 4-in. (10-cm) diameter circle of choux pastry onto a baking sheet.
7Pipe out another circle on top that is just slightly smaller. Repeat the procedure seven times to make eight cakes. Scatter the tops with slivered almonds and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300°F (150°C), and bake for another 10 minutes, until the cakes turn a nice golden color.
8Just before serving, whip the cream with an electric beater, and fold it into the butter cream.
9Spoon the butter cream into a pastry bag.
10Cut each cake in half horizontally and pipe the cream out onto the lower half. Replace the top part, and dust it with confectioners’ sugar.
A DASH OF ADVICE
This pastry has a history. It was created in 1910 by a Monsieur Louis Durand, a pastry chef in Maisons-Laffitte, to the west of Paris, to celebrate the famous Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race that crossed his town. He decided to make a cake in the shape of a bicycle wheel, comprised of two circles of choux pastry filled with a praline-based butter cream. We owe the introduction of this dessert at the Paul Bert entirely to my son Thomas, who learned how to make it in the kitchen of Gérard Besson, a famous chef with two Michelin stars, at his restaurant on the rue du Coq Héron in Paris. Today, this signature dessert at the Paul Bert is found on the menu of many bistros, but one of the best—if not the best—is made by Jacques Génin, pastry chef at La Chocolaterie in the Marais district of Paris.
IMAGE © CHRISTIAN SARRAMON
Extracted from French Bistro: Seasonal Recipes by Bertrand Auboyneau & François Simon (Published by Flammarion).