All about the Paris-Brest: the puff of your dreams

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About the puff that was named after a cycling race, and not after the facade of a Parisienne. It’s “pah-ree-breast” and not “per-iss-breast”. But enough about the pronunciation and the cozy images that pop into our heads (a big dome-shaped cake with a perky cherry in the middle, ha!), here’s what you can expect from a Paris-Brest.

The Paris-Brest is a classic French pastry – let’s say pastry – with a crispy pâte à choux. It’s like a huge choux pastry sprinkled with almonds and split horizontally in half to fit a criminally delicious filling: vanilla pastry cream with praline and whipped butter. Do we need to say more? 

A little more about that Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest was launched in 1910 for the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling race , which had been raced since 1891. The ring, made of choux pastry – choux in French, that is what restaurant Choux owes its name to – is supposed to represent the bicycle wheel . This pastry quickly became popular, including among cyclists because of its high calorie value. They desperately need that energy, because the route is no less than 1200 km (!) long.

The cycling round is still being held, although it is no longer a competition. The last took place in 2019 and is held every four years – but we prefer to eat the Paris-Brest every week.

Louis Durand

The pastry chef who can call Paris-Brest ‘his’ is Louis Durand. Pâtisserie Durand, which is still owned and operated by the Durand family, claims to have the original recipe. Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped bakers worldwide from putting their own spin on it.

Making a Paris-Brest isn’t absurdly difficult, but it’s all about the details. And that starts with good ingredients: you want to use the tastiest hazelnuts for the praline (for example from Piemonte), the best vanilla from Madagascar for the pastry cream and of course: real butter.

Pâte à choux (the dough)

Let’s take a closer look at the Paris-Brest’s individual components. Firstly, the bicycle wheel, or the ring, from pâte à choux. It is the basis of profiteroles, Bossche bollen and éclairs, and it is different from other types of pastry in the patisserie: you make it warm.

You ‘cook’ the dough in the pan and let the flour in the pan already partially cook. Only then do you add the eggs one by one and pipe the dough onto a baking tray in the desired shape to continue baking in the oven. The ingredients are simple: water or milk, butter, flour and eggs. It’s the ratio that matters. To 2 parts liquid go 1 part butter, 1 part flour and 2 parts egg. In addition, you add some sugar and salt for taste and a better baking result. 

That’s how you bake it

For the Paris-Brest you pipe two circles on a baking tray that touch each other, in fact you pipe them directly on top of each other. Then you can sprinkle them with slivered almonds, or chopped hazelnuts if you want to enhance the taste of the praline, and bake the circle in the oven until golden brown.

When the ring is cooked and cooled, cut the ring in half horizontally so that the filling can be piped into tufts with a piping bag.

Cream muslin

You could see the filling as two separate parts: the hazelnut praline and the pastry cream, which together form the mousseline cream. Are you still following me? Pastry cream is made with vanilla, milk, sugar, egg and flour. It is a kind of creamy custard and basically the basic filling for most pastries.

Praline is a sweet nut butter. To make it yourself, heat the sugar to 110°C just before the sugar turns caramel. To that you add the nuts, hazelnuts are common. When the sugar has a caramel color, let the sugar-nut mixture cool.

Break the nut caramel into pieces and turn it into a delicious, deeply roasted sweet nut paste in a food processor. If you mix that pasta with the pastry cream and some butter, you get a hazelnut cream mousseline that forms the filling for the Paris-Brest.


Some twists on the classic :

  • Ludo Lefebvre makes his Paris-Brest with nougatine on top for extra crunch .
  • Skurnick of New York restaurant Le Coucou adds whipped cream to the cream instead of butter, making the filling a little lighter. That’s what you call crème army.
  • Pastry chef Michelle Palazzo uses Sicilian pistachios instead of hazelnuts for the filling.
  • Pastry chef Julie Elkind adds seasonal fruit and turns it into a dessert with black cherries and vanilla ice cream.
  • Theodore Rex in Houston makes a cream with Swiss cheese (!) and burnt honey caramel.

And there are dozens of other variations. Want to make the Paris-Brest yourself? View Rudolph van Veen’s recipe here .

Source: Culy by
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