French Friday’s with Dorie
I generally try to avoid cream puffs. These creamy sweet desserts such as eclairs and other puffed dough balls filled with whipped cream have never been a particular favorite of mine. They remind me of overconfident Frenchmen who are obnoxious yet still win you over with their charm. I’ll explain later.
I’m not at all intimidated by the making of them. In fact, I honed my skills with the puffy medium over 20 years ago after foolishly deciding to make a croquembouch (for the first time ever) to be the staring attraction at my annual Christmas party. I was quite unpracticed with a pastry bag at the time yet the mere thought of such a grandstanding dessert trumped any fears I might have had. I suppose I made a hundred plus cream puffs just to get the 50 0r so I ended up using that day.
By the last batch I had pretty mastered the technique for making and working with the dough and baking them up to perfection. Just in time to never use it again.
Until now. The memories associated with this particular dessert are just too strong for me to say no.
My first Paris Brest pastry was served up by a former houseguest, Francois. You might recall Francois as the foreign visitor who showed up unexpectedly one summer long ago only to announce himself as my then boyfriend’s boyfriend. At the time I didn’t even know that my boyfriend had a boyfriend and apparently neither did Francois. This made for a rather interesting few weeks as you can imagine.
Being Parisian and coming from a restaurant family Francois certainly knew many things, including his way around a kitchen. You would think that given the circumstances I would hate him but I found it just too hard to muster any anger to throw in his direction. His continental good looks, thick accent, and a seemingly complete obliviousness to the havoc his presence had created just charmed the heck out of me.
It must have been rather surprising for my boyfriend to see how well we got on. And we got on very, very well.
As such, Francois ended up staying much longer than the week he had originally planned, much to my boyfriend’s chagrin. During this time he taught me many important life’s lessons such as how to make Céleri Rémoulade and what a complete disaster my relationship was.
He also made desserts and one night he treated us to his version of the Paris Brest pastry. I never forgot it. Or him.
Paris Brest Pastry
In case you were wondering this dessert gets its name from the Paris Brest bicycle race in France. The race started before the turn of the 19th century and the dessert was created not long after to commemorate it. (The dessert is to resemble a bicycle tire, naturally.)