Since I ate my first Paris-Brest cake in 2014, I think about it all the time – how we sat in the grass in Versailles Park and powder sugar fell everywhere; how sticky our hands were; and how we had to rinse them in the lake in the park (ok – not really in the lake, but we did have to rinse). We bought them in Maison Bigot, which was an experience in itself. When we returned from our trip, I made them. Years later, we were at the same place, but the Paris-Versailles-Brest, as it was originally known, was no longer the same. I returned and tried making them again. It’s been quite a while since I made them last, but then I got my hands on a silicone Silikomart éclair mold. I looked at it, and looked at it, and looked at it again until I understood that it was time. Time for praline éclairs. Although it may seem that the process is quite long, it’s not that bad, because the praline you will make will last you for quite a while and for many other recipes – it also makes a great gift!
hot water dough:
250 ml milk
250 ml water
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp fine white or brown sugar
250 g butter, cubed
300 g wheat flour (“550” type)
7‒8 medium eggs, beaten with a fork
500 ml milk
100 ml cream
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
5 medium/large egg yolks
140 g white or brown sugar
60 g cornstarch
200 g praline cream (recipe here)
150 g butter, cubed
150 g cream
80‒100 g milk chocolate, in pieces
1 tbsp grape seed oil
praline nuts or toasted hazelnuts crushed finely
Heat the over to 180°. Use a Silikomart éclair mold, but if you don’t have one of those, line a baking pan with parchment paper.
For the choux pastry, pour milk and water in a pot. Add salt, sugar, and butter and heat just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and add the flour, stirring vigorously all the while, until it is uniform. Return the pot to the stove and heat the dough for another 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat, transfer to a mixing bowl, and beat with a mixer on low speed until the pastry is slightly cooled.
With the mixer running on low, add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them well into the dough. The dough should be elastic, but should also keep its shape (that’s why you add the eggs one at a time). If the dough seems pliable enough, but all the eggs are not added, then don’t add any more. If there are too many eggs, the dough will not hold together and all will be lost!
Put the pastry dough into a pastry bag and squeeze out round shapes about 4 cm apart from each other. Bake for 40 minutes until they are golden brown and look firm. Don’t open the door during the bake! When the the pastry are done, remove from the oven, prick the bottoms to release steam, and cool completely on a rack.
For the custard, pour mild and cream into a pot, add the vanilla bean, and warm. Meanwhile, place egg yolks into a bowl with sugar and cornstarch and whisk together. When the milk has begun to boil, add it to the egg mixture slowly, whisking vigorously all the time. Return the mixture back to the pot and heat on low, mixing constantly. Heat until it begins to thicken, but not too thick. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, add the butter, and stir. Cover with cling film and cool.
When the custard is completely cool, remove from the fridge, add the praline, and mix. Whip the cream into soft peaks and fold into the cream mixture. It should be firm, but creamy. Fill a piping bag with the cream and fill the éclairs.
Cut the pastry in half, spread praline paste on the bottom half (if desired) and pipe some custard cream on the top. Place the other half and pipe whipped cream on top. Sprinkle the tops with some nuts. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
Recipe and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s