Sweet Treats – Pear Paris Brest
As I explained to you earlier, the good folks at Nerada™ Tea gave me a swag of tea varietals to play with in the hope I could create some lovely ideas with their awesome product.
If anything I was spoilt for choice.
I started with the variety I was most familiar with, the bog-standard black tea. (Not that Nerada is bog-standard, it being organic and grown locally and hand-picked by rose lipped maidens, but you get the idea.) From it came the wonderful recipe for barmbrack, a tea bread that has since garnered lots of favourable feedback on Facebook. (Just ignore the auto-corrected comment from my cousin Karen, she’s English, bless her.)
Then I started casting around for other ideas. In the huge bag of goodies was a lovely herbal blend called Rooibos and Vanilla. It gives off a wonderful blushing pink brew and is sweet enough without any further addition of sugar or honey. With a fantastic vanilla scent, it’s guaranteed to bring people into the room wondering what you have been baking.
To me, it seemed perfect to include as a flavouring in baking, but what? More importantly, how? Should I make a cuppa and add it to an existing recipe?
In the end, that’s exactly what I did. I poached a few pears in a litre of very strongly brewed Rooibos and Vanilla tea, and as I suspected, it didn’t need any further sweetening. The pears absorb the subtlety of the rooibos flavour (rooibos is a shrub, native to South Africa) and the vanilla lifts the whole shebang into another dimension. A special flavour demanding a special dessert.
So why not a Paris Brest? Originally named after the Paris-Brest cycle race and said to resemble a bicycle wheel, a Paris Brest is a choux pastry ring, traditionally filled with cream. Not being one to hold back, I filled it with a creamy vanilla custard and those tea-soaked pears and can I tell you, I think I am going to include a piece of this in my last meal in this lifetime.
It’s not as fiddly as you would imagine, but it is fitting for whenever a special occasion demands you make the effort. This is THE perfect cake or dessert for afternoon tea for when your grandmother comes to town, for Christmas Day instead of a doughy pudding, or for a birthday celebratory meal. Rose-lipped maidens could get marriage proposals for this.
Just don’t say you weren’t warned.
2 large firm pears; 8 Nerada™ Rooibos and Vanilla teabags; icing sugar, to serve
Choux pastry: 80g butter; ¾ cup water; ¾ cup sifted plain flour; 3 eggs, lightly beaten; 2 tbsp flaked almonds
Crème Pâtissière: 3 eggs; 2 egg yolks; 100g caster sugar; 50g cornflour; 300ml milk; 1 vanilla pod OR ½ tsp vanilla extract
Pears: Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a medium saucepan that will snugly fit the pears. Remove the saucepan from the heat and steep the tea bags in the water for five minutes to make a very strong brew. Remove the teabags.
While the tea is steeping, peel the pears but leave them whole with stalks intact.
Place pears in the poaching liquid, place a sheet of baking paper over the top with a plate or other weight to hold the pears under the surface of the poaching liquid and bring it all back to a gentle simmer.
Simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pears to soak in the cooling liquid for another ten minutes. Remove the pears.
Choux Pastry: Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and melt it, then add the water. Bring to the boil.
Add the flour all at once and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour mixes with the butter and comes together in a stodgy ball. Turn the heat off and continue stirring and mixing the flour through for another minute in the hot pan.
Remove the pan from the stove top and allow the mixture to cool for the next couple of minutes. Add the egg, a little at a time and use a balloon whisk to beat the pastry well until the egg is completely mixed in and the dough is smooth. Add a little more egg and repeat until all the egg is used up and the dough now resembles a thick glossy paste.
Preheat oven to 200°C. (220°C if your oven is NOT fan forced). Line a pastry sheet with baking paper.
Use a piping bag fitted with a 12mm nozzle to pipe the dough into a 22cm circle. Pipe a second line of dough directly on the inside of the first ring, then a third circle over the top. Sprinkle with almond flakes.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160°C for a further ten minutes. Allow to cool on the tray.
Crème Pâtissière: Mix eggs, egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together with ¼ cup of the milk in a large jug or heat proof bowl.
Pour the remaining milk in a saucepan. Slice the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the black tarry seeds with the tip of a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the milk. Throw in the vanilla pod as well.
Heat the milk over a medium heat until it starts to boil, then immediately pour it over the egg mixture and stir well. Return the custard to the saucepan and stir over very low heat until the custard thickens.
Pour the custard into a heatproof bowl or jug, remove vanilla pod from the custard and lay a piece of clingwrap directly onto the surface of the custard to stop a skin from forming. Leave it to cool for 10 minutes.
Pour the cooled custard into the tart shell and smooth the surface.
To assemble: Use a serrated bread knife to carefully cut the choux ring horizontally in half. Set the top half, with the almonds on top, to one side. Place other choux ring on a serving plate.
Carefully spoon half the crème pâtissière into remaining choux ring.
Slice the pears into quarters, then slice again into thin slices. Arrange neatly over the custard. Spoon remaining crème pâtissière over the top. Carefully top with choux ring topper and sprinkle with a little sifted icing sugar. Stand back and admire before slicing into eight generous pieces.
$7.60 (using vanilla extract – more if using a vanilla pod) for eight people
A while ago, Nerada Tea asked me to write a recipe using their fabulous products. When I agreed, they sent me a carton of more than ten different herbal and black tea blends and I’ve pondered and taste tested and developed recipes for a sponsored post ever since. I hope you like his recipe as much as I enjoyed making it.
Nerada Tea is the largest grower and manufacturer of tea in Australia with over 1,000 acres of planted tea on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland and produces over 1.5 million kilos of black tea a year – that’s about 750 million cups of tea. Ponder that the next time you’re in a supermarket.