For the pastry:The Paris–Brest is more than a century old, invented to commemorate the famous bicycle race.
The dessert is made with pâte à choux piped into a ring (the shape of a tire), baked, split and filled with a praline pastry cream.
I love classics, and Sebastien loves to put a twist on them.
Here he combines a French creation with something very American — peanut butter (making this a reflection of his journey).
We think of peanut butter as commonplace here, but it was new to Sebastien.
He adds Skippy natural peanut butter to the pastry cream filling and garnishes the dessert with whole and chopped salted peanuts rather than using the traditional praline buttercream and almonds.
These are impressive individual desserts to serve at a dinner party.
You’ll need a 3½-inch oval cutter, a spray bottle, a pastry bag with an Ateco #867 French star tip and a pastry bag with an Ateco #864 French star tip.
For this recipe, we use Skippy natural creamy peanut butter.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (standard).
To make a template: The templates for the pâte à choux should be visible through the lighter part of a Silpat.
Using a fine-tip marker and the oval cutter as a guide, draw 6 ovals about 2 inches apart on a large piece of parchment paper.
Place the parchment on a sheet pan and position the Silpat over it.
To pipe and bake the pâte à choux: Fill a small bowl and the spray bottle with water.
Fill the pastry bag with the #867 star tip with the pâte à choux.
Pipe the pâte à choux around the oval templates, overlapping the ends of each one to make a solid oval.
Carefully slide out the template and repeat with a second sheet pan and Silpat.
Wet your finger and press down the overlap to smooth it.
Sprinkle 10 grams/1 tablespoon chopped peanuts on top of each oval, pressing them lightly into the batter.
Spray the ovals lightly with water.
Place the sheet pans in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pastry is beginning to brown.
Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for 5 minutes more, or until golden brown.
Lower the temperature to 300°F and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until the puffs are light and hollow.
If you break one open, the center should be completely cooked.
Set on a cooling rack and cool completely before filling or freezing.
For diplomat cream:Place the gelatin in a bowl of ice water to soften.
Transfer one-third of the pastry cream to a medium microwave-safe bowl or a small saucepan.
Remove the gelatin from the water, squeezing out excess water, and add to the bowl or pan.
Heat, gently stirring, to loosen the pastry cream and dissolve the gelatin.
Meanwhile, transfer the remaining pastry cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a medium bowl and mix or stir until smooth.
Strain the warm pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl with the rest of the pastry cream and mix or stir until smooth.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the whipped cream one-third at a time.
Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
(The cream can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
When ready to use the cream, transfer to a bowl and stir gently until it has a creamy consistency.
For pâte à choux for eclairs:This pâte à choux dough is a little stiffer than the version we use for the cream puffs.
Because the cream puffs are molded, the dough can be fairly loose.
The éclair dough is piped onto sheet pans, so it needs extra body to hold up.
You’ll need a pastry bag with an Ateco #867 French star tip.
Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl.
Using the proportions above, make the dough as directed below, adding the flour and sugar mixture in the same way and adding all the eggs.
To make the dough:Set up a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan, place over medium heat, and stir as the butter melts.
(Starting at too high a temperature will evaporate some of the water before the butter has melted.)
Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and, with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon, stir in all of the flour.
Continue to stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean; the dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture.
Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 grams/3 tablespoons at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one.
Continue adding the eggs, reserving 25 grams/1 ½ tablespoons, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with the paddle but then grabs back on again.
Increase the speed to medium and mix for 15 seconds to be sure all of the eggs are incorporated.
Stop the mixer.
When the paddle is lifted, the dough should form a bird’s beak — it should hold its shape and turn down over itself but not break off.
If the dough is too stiff, add the reserved egg.
Transfer the dough to the pastry bag and refrigerate until cold before using.
For basic buttercream:Buttercream is one of the most important basics in the pastry kitchen.
It’s not essential that you use a high-fat butter, just the best quality butter you have access to.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the 150 grams/3/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan, add the water, and stir to moisten the sugar.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and simmer until the syrup reaches 230°/100°C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, turn the mixer to medium speed, gradually pour in the remaining 33 grams/2 tablespoons plus 2G teaspoons sugar into the whites, and whip until the whites are beginning to form very loose peaks.
If the whites are ready before the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, turn the mixer to the lowest setting just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, remove the pan from the heat.
Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup to the whites, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk.
Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks.
(If the mixture is warm, it will melt the butter.)
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time.
If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed and beat to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter.
Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for up to a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost frozen buttercream in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Thirty minutes before using the buttercream, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow to soften.
Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping or spreading.