Pecan nuts Paris-Brest is my reinterpretation of the famous Philippe Conticini‘s Paris-Brest, in honor of the bicycle race Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 that will take place at the end of August.
The Paris-Brest-Paris is a historical bicycle race of the beginning of 1900. 1200 kilometers from Paris to Brest, a port town of the French Atlantic coast. From 1951 it became a non-professional race open to everyone. It is held once every 4 years.
Some years ago I had the insane idea: taking part to the Paris-Brest with the Elliptigo. The Elliptigo is an elliptical bike like the one found in gyms, but with wheels. Pretty tough.
I should have done 1200 kilometers (750 miles) standing for days. Totally insane.
But then I had a moment of clarity and decided to pass. The Paris-Brest went back to be what has always been for me: a delicious cake.
So here’s my Paris-Brest method Conticini, which I revisited using pecan nuts.
In the first attempt I tried inserting caramel inside but it was killing the pecan nut flavor. So I decided to use the same praliné I used for the custard cream.
Pecan Nuts Paris-Brest
For the pecan nut praliné:
- 170 g pecan nuts 6 oz
- 110 g sugar 3.9 oz
- 30 g water 1 oz
For the praliné custard cream:
- 300 g milk 10.5 oz
- 60 g egg yolks 2 oz
- 30 g cornstarch 1 oz
- 55 g sugar 1.9 oz
- 135 g butter, room temperature (4.8 oz)
- tip of a tsp of powdered vanilla bourbon alternatively vanilla extract
- 110 g pecan nut praliné 3.9 oz
For the pecan nut craquelin:
- 60 g butter, room temperature (2 oz)
- 75 g brown sugar 2.6 oz
- 90 g flour 3.2 oz
- 35 g pecan nuts 1.2 oz
For the choux paste:
- 65 g butter 2.3 oz
- 130 g water 4.6 oz
- 3 g sugar 0.1 oz
- pinch of salt
- 85 g flour 3 oz
- 140 g eggs 4.9 oz
For the praliné:
- Put a small heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat, with the sugar and water. When the sugar melts and the caramel starts producing big bubbles (around 115° C / 239° F) add the pecan nuts and stir continuously with a wooden spoon.
- Keep stirring until the sugar is caramelized and has coated the nuts.
- Transfer the nuts on a sheet of baking paper and let them cool off.
- Chop them in the blender to obtain a paste. Careful not to overheat the mixer.
- For the core of pecan nuts praliné:
- Take a 4 cm /1.5 in (semi) sphere silicon mold and fill 8 slots using the praliné. Level with a spatula.
- Put the mold in the freezer.
For the praliné custard cream:
- Heat the milk in a small pot.
- In a medium bowl mix sugar and cornstarch. Add the egg yolks and mix with a whisk.
- When the milk starts to boil pour half of it in the bowl using a strainer. Mix to make the solids dissolve. Add the remaining milk and stir.
- Put everything back in the pot on medium heat, stirring constantly with the whisk until the cream thickens.
- Remove from heat, transfer in a bowl (preferably cold) and whisk vigorously for a minute or two.
- Spread the custard cream on a baking tray lined with cling film. Cover the top with cling film and let it cool off.
- In the stand mixer with paddle attachment work the butter at medium speed. Add 2 tbsp of custard cream (it should not be hot!) and the 110g (3.9 oz) of pecan nut praliné.
- Let the mixer work at medium speed to combine all ingredients.
- Add the remaining custard cream and work until the mixture becomes uniform.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film and store it in the fridge.
- The custard cream can also be transferred directly in a pastry bag with round tip (which will be used later on). The problem is that if it remains in the bag for too long it will set and will have to be worked again before use.
For the craquelin:
- Work the butter together with brown sugar in the stand mixer with paddle attachment.
- Add the flour and let the mixer go until the texture is like “sand”. Work briefly with your hands in order to create a flat ball.
- Chop the pecan nuts either with a kitchen knife or in a blender (only need to pulse a few times).
- Place the dough between two sheets of baking paper and roll out with a rolling pin.
- Remove the top sheet and sprinkle the chopped pecan nuts over it.
- Press gently with the palm of your hand to make them stick to the dough.
- Using a 5 cm / 2 in pastry ring cut out 8 discs (maybe 1 or 2 extras just case). Alternatively the back of a piping bag tip can be used instead, if big enough.
- Place the discs in the freezer while the choux pastry is prepared, but at least 10 minutes.
For the choux pastry:
- In a small pot put butter, water, sugar and salt on low heat. When it starts to boil add the sifted flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the dough thickens. As you stir the dough should leave white marks in the pot.
- Remove from heat and transfer in the stand mixer with paddle attachment. Work at medium speed in order to cool it off. This can be also done by hand stirring with the wooden spoon.
- When the steam stops coming out of the bowl it is time to add the eggs. Add the eggs in small batches, one by one or even less. Wait for the previous batch to be absorbed before adding the next one.
- The quantity of eggs here is approximate, and it can vary due to different factors (for how long the dough has been cooked, the humidity of the room etc). Getting the right consistency can be tricky at first. Here's how: when near the end of the prepared amount of eggs check the consistency by inserting the wooden spoon in the dough, lifting it up and rotating it by 45° to let the dough fall down.
- The pastry is ready when the dough falls slowly and it forms a triangle on the spoon. If it doesn't fall add a small amount of egg until the right consistency is reached.
- Another trick is to pass your index finger in the dough. The “canal” that forms should close up slowly.
- Transfer the pastry in a pastry bag with a big round tip.
Design and baking:
- Preheat the oven at 180° C (355° F).
- On a squared sheet draw a 10 cm / 3.9 in square. Draw a dot on each angle.
- Draw a second 10 cm / 3.9 in square over the first one, this time rotated by 45°: starting from the center of each side draw a dot 2 cm / 0.78 in outside the square.
- Connect the dots.
- Place a sheet of baking paper over the drawing and trace all the dots using a black pen. With the help of a 5 cm / 2 in pastry ring draw a circle around each dot.
- Turn the sheet upside down and place it on a baking tray. If the tray is too dark to see the drawing place another baking paper sheet underneath the one with the drawing.
- With the pastry bag filled with the choux pastry pipe 8 mounds covering each circle.
- Take the craquelin discs from the freezer and place each one on top of the 8 mounds.
- Bake in the preheated oven at 180° C (355° F) for 40 minutes without opening the door. Once baked leave the Paris-Brest inside the oven with the door slightly open for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let it cool off.
- Fill a piping bag with the praliné custard cream. If the cream is too solid work it briefly with the handheld mixer.
- Using a long knife cut the Paris-Brest horizontally in half, paying attention non to break it.
- Remove the caps and pipe the praliné custard cream in each cavity.
- Place the frozen praliné cores in the middle of each cavity.
- Cover with the caps.
- Store in the fridge and keep at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar if you like.