When our friend turned 50 and I asked him what was his favorite cake he answered immediately: the Paris-Brest.
So I didn’t have to think twice regarding the birthday cake: a number cake made of choux filled with praliné cream, and as he really loves praliné, I added some praliné crunch at the bottom of the choux.
Those choux are made of:
- choux pastry topped with craquelin
- praliné pastry cream
- praliné crunch
- chocolate decor
Craquelin is a sort of crumble dough, that is rolled out to a thickness of 2mm (maximum) and chilled, then cut and placed on the raw choux or eclairs. As the choux pastry bakes and expands, the craquelin cracks and forms a crust on top of the pastry, which adds a sweet and crunchy layer.
- Stainless steel mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- 2 rectagles of parchment paper approx. 15cmx30cm each
- Rolling pin
- 20 g Butter At room temperature
- 25 g Flour Type 45
- 25 g Cassonade Unrefined cane brown sugar
- 0.5 g Fleur de sel French sea salt
- Bring the butter to room temperature.
- Add the powders and combine using a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Pour the batter on the first piece of parchment paper and cover with the other one.
- Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2mm (maximum) and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
I use different recipes and baking techniques for choux (the round ones) and eclairs (the long ones). Please refer to Essentials page for more details. You can prepare the eclairs in advance and store them in an airtight box in the freezer for up to one month. Whenever you need to fill them, just reheat them (without unfreezing them) at 170°C for 2/3 minutes.
- Stainless steel mixing bowl
- Stand mixer equipped with flat beater
- Wooden turner or spatula
- Baking tray lined with Silpat mat
- Piping bag with 10mm round tip
- 24 holes semi spheres silicone mold
- Angled spatula
- 60 g Eggs Around 1 large egg
- 36 g Flour
- 26 g Butter
- 30 g Full fat milk Fresh if possible
- 30 g Water
- 4 g Inverted sugar Or granulated sugar
- 1 g Table salt Use precision scale, approx. 1 pinch
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. Whisk them lightly to combine the whites and the yolks so that when added to the dough later, you get an even mix of whites and yolks at each addition.
- Preheat the oven at 170°C, on STATIC mode.
- Sieve the flour.
- Cut the butter into small cubes (maximum 2cmx2cm).
- Place the milk, the butter, the salt and the inverted sugar in the saucepan and heat them.
- Stir from time to time to dissolve the salt and sugar, and so that the butter melts before the mix comes to a boil.
- As soon as it starts boiling, remove from the heat (but don't switch off the stove).
- Add ALL the sifted flour in ONE GO. Mix immediately (off the heat) using the wooden turner (or a spatula not too flexible). Make sure there are no lumps.
- Place the saucepan on the stove again (at medium heat) and mix energetically to dry the dough and evaporate the excess moist. This step should take 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the flour).
- The dough is ready when it pulls away very cleanly from the sides of the pan, and either it forms a thin film at the bottom of your stainless steel saucepan (cf. picture below) OR small oil droplets at the bottom of your non-stick saucepan*.
- Transfer the dough into the bowl of the stand mixer equipped with the flat beater. Mix at low speed for 1 minute to cool it down*.
- Add the eggs a little at a time (4 to 5 times) and mix (at low speed) after each addition. You can start by adding the 1/3 of the eggs, then the second 1/3. and make sure the eggs are combined properly at each step, but do not over-agitate the dough.
- Then add the rest of the eggs little by little until getting the right texture, i.e. when it becomes smooth and glossy and it holds its shape*.
- Transfer the dough into the piping bag with 10mm round tip.
- Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped in the bag before starting piping by squeezing the bag and pushing the dough towards the tip.
- You can pipe directly the choux on the tray lined with silicone mat, by holding the pastry bag upright and pressing gently, and form small mounds about 3 to 3.5cm diameter. Don't mind the tips and don't try to flatten them if you will use craquelin.
- You can also pipe the dough in silicone molds (mini semi spheres for me, 3cm diameter), then freeze them. This technique ensures having all the choux of exactly the same size.
- Once frozen, unmold the semi spheres and place them on the silicone mat.
- Place on each choux a craquelin disc. No need to make it much bigger than the choux itself.
- Bake at 170°C on STATIC mode for 20 minutes. This static mode diffuses the heat vertically (while the fan mode diffuses it evenly in all the directions), which allows the choux not to puff vertically and have a neat shape.
- Open slightly the door of the oven to release the steam and close it back immediately. Continue baking for 5 minutes. You may need more time depending on the size of your choux, your oven...
- The choux are done when they have a nice dark golden color. If you don't bake them enough they will collapse once out of the oven.
- Let them cool on a cooling rack.
I chose to add a nice crunchy texture to the choux with this praliné crunch. I added caramelized cocoa nibs (please check Essentials page) which are a bit bitter to balance the sweet praliné. This crunch can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
- Stainless steel mixing bowl
- Spatula or spoon
- 120 g Hazelnut and almond praline Homemade if possible*
- 20 g Feuilletine flakes "Gavottes" biscuit available in supermarket**
- 30 g Caramelized cocoa nibs*
- 1 pinch Fleur de sel French sea salt
- Combine all the ingredients using a spatula or a spoon.
Praliné crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
This praliné pastry cream is made with a crème pâtissière (pastry cream in French) to which we add a praliné. Please refer to the Essentials for the detailed steps of the pastry cream and the praliné. Please note that the ingredients and dosages of this pastry cream are slightly different from those used for the vanilla one, but the steps and techniques are exactly the same.
You can replace the hazelnuts and almonds praliné with any other nuts praliné.
I do not recommend to freeze this pastry cream, and it’s better to use it within 48 hours after preparing it.
- Mixing bowl
- Stand mixer with a whisk
- Hand blender
- Cling wrap
- 155 g Full fat milk Fresh if possible
- 35 g Egg yolks Approx. the yolks of 2 eggs
- 20 g White sugar
- 15 g Corn starch
- 2 g Gelatin Gold strengh (200 bloom)*
- 90 g Praliné Almond and hazelnuts**
- 65 g Butter
- Soak the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
- Heat the milk, don't boil, just bring to simmer.
- Whisk energetically the sugar with the egg yolks until light and creamy.
- Add the corn starch and combine.
- Add 1/3 of the hot milk to the yolks mix and whisk until homogeneous.
- Transfer this mixture in the saucepan with the rest of the hot milk and cream.
- Simmer over medium heat whitout stopping whisking. As soon as it reaches the boiling point, continue cooking for almost 2 minute.
- When the cream is thick, take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the cream onto the bowl of the standmixer.
- Wring gently the gelatin and dissolve it in the cream.
- Add the praliné and mix.
- Add the butter (the temperature of the cream should be around 45°C).
- Blend the cream for a few seconds to smoothen it.
- Cover with the cling wrap directly on the surface and let it cool in the refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.
- When the cream is cold, whisk it at medium speed for 5 minutes.
- Use immediately.
Once the choux are properly cooled, cut them horizontally and spread one tea spoon of praliné crunch at the bottom of each choux. Then fill them with praliné cream (I used a round tip 10mm).
To decorate the choux, you can prepare chocolate discs with tempered chocolate, spread on them caramelized cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts. You can also prepare nougatines with cocoa nibs and/or hazelnuts (check Essentials page).
Put on the top of each choux one pea-sized amount of praliné to stick each chocolate disc.
If you wish to realize a number cake, you can use pastry crust or “pâte brisée” to cut out the numbers, bake them and then stick the choux on them with a drop of dark chocolate.