Gateau Paris Brest

Richard Hughes step by step, Paris Brest.
Photo by Simon Finlay.

Richard Hughes step by step, Paris Brest. Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Only the French would invent a pastry to celebrate a round-the-clock 90-hour cycling event, pedalled over 1,200 kilometres. Gateau Paris Brest was created to honour the PBP – Paris-Brest-Paris – back in 1910. One of the oldest cycling events (the first was staged in 1891) it’s a gruelling test of human endurance for the non-professional of the sport, now staged every four years.

Having just witnessed the euphoria surrounding the Tour de France start in the British Isles, even I am feeling the urge to get out the Raleigh Chopper and join in the fun. I must confess I did begin my fitness regime some four years back, and bought a cycle and trouser clips to pedal the two miles from my flat to the restaurant. I made it one way and the shiny wheels are still in garage at the Lavender House, with the said two miles on the clock. At least the good intention was there! Everyone I know seems to have been bitten by the bug, indeed the hobby has created the MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra), so perhaps it’s just as well that I concentre on the pastry rather than the pedalling.

I love the way the French will always celebrate by eating, though given the impetus of this year’s Norfolk Food and Drink Festival I’m sure we could create our own celebratory dishes – be it for the Sheringham and Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival, the Royal Norfolk Show or the Lord Mayor’s Celebration.

How good would it be to have a special occasion cake right here in the county? My good friends at Pye Baker of Norwich have created the Norfolk Apple Bun, which they sell at farmers’ markets, festivals and at many delis in the county. Perhaps it will become our version of the Bakewell tart, the Eccles cake or the Bath bun, let’s hope so. I love these old-fashioned classic desserts, and am always thrilled to see something on a menu that’s been around for over a century. Good food never goes out of fashion, and so cook up this treat for your partner on their return from the gym, the pool or the well cycled roads of the county.

Gateau Paris Brest

Choux pastry

125ml water

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150g flour

125g butter

4 eggs

Pastry cream

500ml milk

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

125g sugar

20g flour

20g custard powder

25g butter


200g caster sugar

50ml water

50g toasted flaked almonds

1 Prepare the pastry cream. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, flour, custard powder and sugar.

2 Whisk thoroughly until the mixture is smooth.

3 Bring the milk, the 25g of butter and the vanilla pod to the boil. Pour over the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture into a clean saucepan. (We leave the vanilla in the custard while it cooks and cools.)

4 Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken, cook for two minutes and pour into a bowl. Cover with buttered greaseproof and allow to cool. Remove the vanilla pod.

5 Prepare the choux pastry. Bring the water to the boil with the butter. Simmer until the butter has melted.

6 Tip in the flour.

7 Beat the mixture vigorously, until it leaves the side of the pan.

8 Allow to cool and then add the eggs.

9 Beat the mixture well.

10 Pipe the circles with a piping bag and a large star nozzle, two discs approx 15cm in diameter.

11 Sprinkle with flaked almonds. Place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 15 minutes at Gas Mark 7/220C, until the mixture has risen, then lower the temperate to Gas Mark 3/140C, and leave in the oven for another 10 minutes.

12 Make the praline. Bring the sugar and water to the boil. Simmer until golden brown.

13 Add the flaked almonds. Dip the base of the pan into a tray of cold water to stop the cooking.

14 Tip out on to a silicone mat.

15 When the pastry is cooked, remove from the oven and cool.

16 Cut off the top.

17 Break the cold praline into the crumb, using the base of a rolling pin to smash it up. Add a couple of spoonfuls to the cold pastry cream.

18 Spoon or pip onto the bottom disc.

19 Top with the remaining praline.

20 Add the top, fill the centre with fruit if desired and dust with icing sugar.

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