For the following two weeks, while I am in France, I am going to try a new pastry. Every. Single. Day.
In case you haven’t memorized your multiplication tables yet (don’t worry, I haven’t either), that’s fourteen pastries. Is that a lot? Honestly, I would be eating that many pastries—or more—anyway, so I might as well get something out of it besides an empty wallet and a gourmet French dessert baby kicking at my stomach.
So what is culturally significant about fourteen variations of dark, rich, chocolate, flaky dough, and vanilla beans? I plan on finding out, one bite at a time.
Read the entire series here.
The latest Daily Pastry might be a sign that I should start exercising, tout de suite.
The Paris-Brest was created to honor the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race. It is made of choux pastry (the same pâte à choux perfected by Carême and used for éclairs, the Religieuse, and several others) and a hazelnut and almond mousseline cream called praliné.
Personally, it was a bit too nutty for me (pot calling the kettle black over here). But it is a beautiful pastry, with an unusual background that I’m excited to tell you about but never reproduce myself:
In 1910, pastry chef Louis Durand was commissioned to create the Paris-Brest, in commemoration of the Paris-Brest-Paris route. The circular pastries were meant to resemble a bicycle’s wheel, and Durand generally succeeded in that regard.
Originally, the Paris-Brest-Paris (called PBP by those in the know) was a 1200-kilometer bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back again to Paris. For those of us who are not familiar with the metric system, that’s about 746 miles. For those of us who are not familiar with measuring distance, that’s a lot.
The PBP is one of the oldest bicycling events to still endure, though in a different form. The last time the PBP was held as a race was in 1951; it was most recently held, though not as a race, in August of 2015. The first victor of the Paris-Brest race was Charles Terront, who beat runner-up Jiel-Laval because the latter slept during the third night of the race. Terront finished the course in seventy-one hours and twenty-two minutes. Interestingly, both contestants suffered flat tires during the race that took over an hour to repair (mutual sabotage perhaps?).
Of course, there’s a weird little fact about the 1891 race that I obviously had to share. The most unusual entrant to the premier PBP race was a petrol-powered Peugeot Type 3 Quadricycle, an early French automobile, operated by Auguste Driot and Louis Rigoulot. Hilariously, by the time that Doriot and Rigoulot reached Brest, Terront and Laval had already finished the race. Despite having an internal combustion engine, the first model to be mass produced by French car brand Peugeot couldn’t even compete with man-powered bicycles.
I’m going to stick to eating, and not bicycling, but it’s still a fun story. Only the French would think of a decadent pastry to commemorate serious atheleticism.