Eating The Tour De France Stage 21: Paris. The Paris Brest
Well thats all folks. The race has been run, Alberto is kissing the girls and all over France farmers are cursing as they pick another water bottle out of their hedge. And what a year it has been. Mark Cavendish has claimed 5 stages, Mr Wiggins was up there with the very best and 2010 looks like it is going to be better than ever with a host of new teams and UK coverage on Sky. Time to rescue the dish from the shed.
And what a food tour it has been. Like Asterix and Obelix and Mr and Mrs Sarkozy, food and cycling are a perfect match and it has been a joy for me to explore Frances culinary culture combined with the greatest race on earth!This year the Tour has allowed us to eat bouillabaisse on the med and fondue in Alps. We have eaten flammekueche in the Alcase and Escudella in Spain. But what to finnish with in the French capital?
In recent weeks I have developed somewhat of a love affair with a French tart called a Paris Brest. Peruse any respectable French patisserie, and lined up next to the pretty tartlet's, lurid macrons and coulees-drizzled petits-four, you will find a ratherdisheveled looking cake called a Paris Brest. Consisting of choux pastry filled with a praline-flavored butter-cream topped with toasted almonds and a light dusting of icing suagr. it seems somewhat of an ugly sister amongst the other pretty offerings but do not be put off.
This humble pastry has been the choice of competitive cyclists for over a century and is named after the world’s oldest bike race The Paris – Brest, a grueling event, first held in 1891 that require its riders to complete a 1200 km (750 miles) ride from Paris to Brest, and back, within 90 hours! With the original riders not wanting to stop the long periods of time and made to carry their own supplies, one crafty baker ‘enroute’ saw a gap in the market. He created a calorie-laden confection called the 'Paris-Brest'. This tire-shaped choux pastry was piped full with a huge amount of calorific praline cream, perhaps mimicking the newly invented inner tubes of the day and topped traditionally baked almonds and icing sugar, perhaps imitating the tread of the tyre and dust from the road, as well as providing protein, and a no doubt well needed boost of power.
These energy-packed treats soon became a favorite amongst the brave riders on the Paris- Brest, which continues to this day, establishing The Paris Brest as the oldest purpose-made cycling energy food in the world. And so at the end of this years Tour here is a link to a recipe for the original cycling energy food from the oldest race in the world.
- Alas as a feeble pastry chef I have no recipe for a Paris Brest but you can find one here.
- Read about Chris Hoy and Paris Brest