Before the cronut, there was another round, wheel-shaped pastry filled with almond and hazelnut buttercream. But is the Paris-Brest a kind of gourmet donut? No way ! the French would respond. In this month’s Beyond Brioche, hop on your bike and experience classic Paris-Brest patisserie.
The history of Paris Brest:
At the end of the 19th century, in France, the bicycle was all the rage, and cycle races began to spring up here and there. French cycling races are not limited to the Tour de France: in 1891, journalist Pierre Giffard had the idea of a race that went from Paris to the Breton seaside town of Brest, then back to Paris. His newspaper, Le Petit Journal, will cover the race, giving his newspaper and the bicycle industry healthy publicity.
A few years later, in 1910, Giffard decided to commemorate the race and asked the baker Durand to imagine a pastry to symbolize the race. Paris-Brest was born……
Read also: Where to taste the best paris-brest in Brest?
A little history…
A tribute to cycle racing, the Paris-Brest is shaped like a wheel tire. It’s a plump, fluffy tire made of choux pastry – the magic behind chouquettes – and filled with praline buttercream. Praliné is a heavenly creation: sugar, almonds and hazelnuts crushed into a divine paste that just might be more addictive than Nutella (who knew it was even possible?).
The Paris-Brest, a novelty when it was launched, has become a pillar of the bakery throughout France. As a French resident, you may never have been to Brest, but you’ve surely taken a bite of this memorable patisserie. The crispy top, often topped with golden almonds, gives way to a smooth, creamy crema that leaves a sweet, roasted taste on your taste buds long after your last bite.
Over the past few years, as the French fall in love with their own pastry classics, Paris-Brest is stepping out from behind the bakery counter and into the limelight. Famous pastry chefs began to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, introducing Paris-Brest in new shapes and designs. Philippe Conticini, from La Pâtisserie des Rêves, was one of the first to try his (expert) hand at the 2.0 version of the classic, abandoning the traditional wheel shape in favor of a crown of round, plump puffs. The result is a dessert that’s easily shareable – to each their own – that looks crisper and cleaner than some of the original versions.
Across France, these new Paris-Brests have toured the world, and even crossed the Atlantic by bicycle to Dominique Ansel’s bakery, where a Paris-New York with its chocolate, caramel and butter filling peanut is available to share.
Back in Paris, where the new classic has become ubiquitous, other star bakers have decided to keep it simple, offering the traditional Paris-Brest to a crowd that has come to love it again. Sébastien Gaudard is a good example: in his white bakery, the Paris-Brest is a simple wheel of choux pastry that makes the generous praline filling shine.
Jump on any bike you want, soft or sporty – we won’t judge. Your taste buds also need exercise.
Read also: Where to eat the best pizza in Brest?