Episode 115: All Puffed Up 
Recipe: Chocolate Paris-Brest Cake
Resembling a wheel, this French pastry is thought to have been created by a Parisian pastry chef to celebrate the famous bicycle race from Paris to Brest, in Brittany. The traditional version consists of an almond-topped ring of cream puff pastry that is split and filled with a praline-flavored buttercream. My rendition has a chocolate cream filling and is topped with sweetened whipped cream flavored with a little rum.
Serves 8 to 10
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
3/4 cup milk
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
FOR THE DOUGH: Combine the milk, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour in one stroke, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Then place back over the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 to 20 seconds, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the dough to a food processor and let cool for 10 minutes.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and mix them well with a fork. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg for use as a glaze. Pour the remaining eggs into the processor bowl and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the eggs are well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
Line a cookie sheet with a nonstick baking mat, or use a nonstick cookie sheet. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip. Pipe a ring with an outside circumference of 8 to 8 1/2 inches on the cookie sheet. Pipe another circle of dough inside and another on top of the rings until you have used all the dough and have a circle that is 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches high with a hole in the center that measures about 5 inches across. Do not start and end the dough circles in the same spot, since this can cause the pastry to open at the seam during baking.
Brush the dough with the reserved tablespoon of egg. Using a fork, mark the surface and sides of the dough, running the tines of the fork gently around the circle to create a crosshatch effect. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes, or until browned. (If the pastry begins to brown excessively, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.) Turn the oven off and let the pastry remain in the oven for 30 minutes with the door partially open to evaporate some of the moisture.
Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before removing from the cookie
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CREAM: Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a bowl, mixing them with a whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and mix it in with the whisk. Pour the boiling milk in on top of the egg yolk mixture and mix it in well with a whisk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil, mixing constantly with the whisk. Boil for about 10 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and is incorporated into the pastry cream.
Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
FOR THE GARNISH: Whip the cream, rum, and sugar in a bowl until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
TO FINISH THE CAKE: Use a sharp knife to remove a 1/2-inch-thick horizontal slice, or “lid,” from the top; set it aside. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate cream in the bottom of the pastry round, pushing it gently into the cavities of the pastry. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip, and pipe the cream on top of the chocolate cream. It should come at least 1 inch above the rim of the cake.
Cut the pastry lid into 8 to 10 equal pieces, and reassemble them in order on top of the pastry to make it easy to cut into portions. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar. (The pastry can be assembled a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)
At serving time, using the separations on the lid as guides, cut through the bottom half of the pastry, and arrange on individual dessert plates.
Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.