This easy Paris Brest recipe, or cream puff wreath, is one of my favorite recipes to make when I want to create a show-stopping dessert for guests. Made with choux pastry, custard, and homemade whipped cream, you’re bound to love this indulgent French dessert!
What does Paris Brest mean?
Before I delve into more details regarding the Paris-Brest recette (aka recipe), I thought I’d share why this wreath of cream puffs is actually called a Paris Brest.
The Paris Brest is one of the oldest bicycling events; it spans a distance from Brest, France to Paris, France. To commemorate this event, the Paris Brest pastry was created in 1910 by Louis Durand and was designed to mimic the shape of a wheel.
Not only is the dessert a high-calorie dessert, which is great for those exhausted cyclers, but it’s also an incredibly tasty treat that everyone in France wanted a piece of.
How do you pronounce Paris-Brest?
Like many French terms, you may be wondering what the Paris-Brest pronunciation is. You’ll want to pronounce Paris like you always should: Pah-ree, and the Brest as simply Breast.
Not too difficult, right?
How to Make a Paris-Brest
The tricky part isn’t so much the pronunciation of the dessert but the making of choux pastry in general.
That’s not to say this dessert is difficult to make. It’s just that most people who embark on making choux pastry often have the trouble the first time around because there are some little known secrets that not every recipe shares.
Don’t worry, though, because I will definitely be sharing them here! Cream puffs are generally an impressive dessert, but a whole wreath of them is even more crowd-pleasing and I want to make sure you are able to please a crowd with this recipe!
When I first started baking, I attempted my hand at cream puffs and was incredibly frustrated to end up with flat, pathetic looking pastry mounds.
But that’s because no one told me that 1) You are never to open the oven door while the cream puffs are baking and 2) Although pate a choux (the pastry dough for cream puffs) is technically a one-bowl (or more like one-pot) recipe, it doesn’t mean that it’s as simple as whisking all the ingredients together and just calling it a day.
Now, I know better, and the recipe I’m sharing with you today is a foolproof way of creating perfectly tall, full pastry puffs.
Traditionally, a Paris Brest recipe is made with choux pastry and praline cream. In the interest of simplifying the recipe, I’ve shared a version here with a classic vanilla custard and whipped cream.
You can always swap out the vanilla flavoring and incorporate a praline or even almond extract for a more authentic Paris-Brest taste.
Once you’ve created your choux pastry for the cream puffs, you’ll simply pipe out the mounds of pastry dough right next to each other. You can also simply pipe out mini circles or one large circle of pastry dough.
The Paris Brest dessert doesn’t have to consist of pate a choux mounds that were individually piped and connected.
Once you’ve baked your pastry, you’ll give the wreath a cut through the middle, horizontally, to split the pastry into a top and bottom.
The bottom shells are topped with custard and then whipped cream before the top half is placed back on top to complete the dessert. A dusting of powdered sugar will make this the prettiest dessert on the table!
for the pate a choux pastry dough
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
for the custard
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
for the whipped cream
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the top of the wreath
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Begin creating the recipe several hours before (or the night before, if possible) by first creating your custard filling. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the granulated sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the cornstarch, flour and salt, and whisk again to combine.
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it’s scalding hot, but not boiling. Then remove from heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of the milk into your bowl with the eggs, and whisk vigorously to combine. Pour the entire egg mixture into the saucepan, and move the saucepan back over to the stove. With the heat on medium-low, continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens into a thick, pudding-like consistency. Do not take your eyes off the mixture and continue to whisk the entire time. This can take around 7 to 9 minutes, but the thickening will be happen in a flash so keep your eyes on the custard.
- Pour the hot custard into a large bowl, then add the vanilla extract. Whisk to incorporate the vanilla and smooth out any clumps in the custard. Cover the custard with a sheet of plastic wrap, placing the plastic wrap directly onto the custard. Refrigerate until chilled.
- On the day you'd like to serve the dessert, you'll want to create the pate a choux (the pastry dough). Begin by heating the butter, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and the mixture has come to a simmer, remove the saucepan from heat.
- Add in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Move the saucepan back over to low heat and continue to stir the mixture until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough no longer sticks to the bottom or sides of the pan. You should be stirring over the stove for at least a good minute or two as you want to make sure there is no moisture left in the dough. Remove the pan from heat and turn off stove.
- Add in the eggs, stirring very well after each addition. The mixture will look glossy at first when you stir in the egg, but once the egg is mixed in well, the mixture should start looking like a paste/dough. You want to make sure each egg is mixed in well before adding another. This will feel hard to do but just be patient and keep mixing. The finished result should look like a thick, goopy paste. Let the dough rest in the saucepan while you move to the next step.
- Use a ruler, cake board, or just a large round bowl to measure out a 9 inch circle on a piece of parchment paper (don't use permanent marker; use a pencil to trace). Flip the parchment paper over so that the side with the drawn circle is facing down on a baking sheet. You should still be able to see the faint circumference of the circle.
- Use a cookie scooper (or a pastry bag) to place round mounds of pate a choux (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length) along the circumference of the circle, placing the mounds right next to each other so that they are touching.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven at 425°F for 10 minutes. Then, WITHOUT opening the oven door, lower the heat to 375°F and continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the pate a choux is a deep golden hue. Once the pate a choux has finished baking, open the oven door and gently pierce each mound with a sharp knife to let out steam. Let the puffs rest in the oven, with the oven door slightly ajar and the oven completely turned off, for another 15 minutes. Finally, remove from oven and let completely cool on a wire rack.
- Create the whipped cream by whisking the heavy cream on high speed for 1 minute, until it begins to thicken and the whisk leaves indentations in the cream. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whisk on high speed until soft peaks have formed and the cream sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- Take a sharp knife and horizontally slice through the center of the entire wreath of puffs. If a couple mounds separate, it's not a big deal. Gently lift the top half of the wreath and set aside.
- Use a spoon to scoop custard into each puff's bottom half cavity. Pipe or spoon the whipped cream on top of the custard. Gently transfer the top half of the wreath back into place and finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 7 Serving Size: 1 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 663Total Fat: 46gSaturated Fat: 27gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 331mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 13g