The dainty, fanciful Paris-Brest-Quebec dessert served at Panache Restaurant in Auberge Saint-Antoine is so distinctive that it’s awaiting a possible patent at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, a pastry school in Yssingeaux, France.Auberge Saint-Antoine is a 95-room boutique hotel in Quebec City, Canada.The Auberge Saint-Antoine version of Paris-Brest is the brainchild of the hotel’s pastry chef, Yves-Marie Rolland. He is from Brest in Brittany, France, a harbor on the Atlantic Ocean. He trained at a pastry school in Brest, and of course knew the classic Paris-Brest dessert. He wanted to devise his own French-Canadian version of this favorite from 1910, and has sent in the recipe for registration with the French pastry school.
The classic Paris-Brest was inspired by a grueling bike race, begun in 1891 between Paris and Brest. The Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) covers 1,200 kilometers/745 miles, and must be pedaled within 90 hours. It’s the oldest cycling event still being run, and is staged every four years.
Wheel-shaped dessert on a roll for more than a century
To celebrate the bike race, Pastry Chef Louis Durand was asked to create a grand dessert for the riders’ arrival. He made a large ring of choux pastry, resembling a bike wheel, and filled it with praline, a paste made by blending caramelized hazelnuts and almonds.
Today, this confection of airy choux pastry and sweet praline cream is a staple in patisseries around France. It’s been a favorite with cyclists and travelers for more than a century.
A French journalist visiting Auberge Saint-Antoine in Canada’s Quebec City suggested that this famous Paris-Brest dessert might link the Old World with the New.
Intrigued by the idea and inspired by local ingredients, Pastry Chef Rolland opted for miniature choux pastries, filled with praline pecans and a Quebecoise maple mousse cream. It’s served with diced apples deglazed with ice cider, apple jelly with walnuts and caramelized pecans, green apple sorbet and Breton shortbread. The elegant topper is gold leaf.
Auberge Saint-Antoine reaches back into the earliest days of European Quebec
A 21st-century spin on a vintage dessert fits into the vibe at Auberge Saint-Antoine. The chic hotel, a member of the Relais & Chateaux worldwide network of inns, was created from historical buildings in Quebec City’s Old Port, on Ilot Hunt opposite the St. Lawrence River. The hotel now combines three buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, plus a wharf and battery structure on the St. Lawrence that date back to the late 1600s.
During digs on the property, archaeologists found more than 5,000 objects from both the French and British eras of the city. The Centre de conservation du Quebec and the Restoration-Conservation Laboratory of the History Department of Universite Laval have restored the treasures.
Auberge Saint-Antoine showcases more than 700 of the artifacts, from dainty teacups to a mighty French cannon, throughout its buildings.
The restaurant Panache (French for antlers) is now within the former stone warehouse that master cooper John Chillas built next to his long dock in 1822. Around 1880, the building was turned into a dish and glassware business, which lasted for more than a century.
The site was abandoned when the Price family bought Ilot Hunt and transformed it into Auberge Saint-Antoine in 1992. The family also has deep Quebec roots, with William Price arriving in 1810 from Wales to join the forest industry.
The Paris-Brest-Quebec dessert reflects back to a century-old tradition as well, and this may be the perfect time for Auberge Saint-Antoine to spotlight the Old World-New World delicacy. The legendary PBP race returns Aug. 16-20, 2015, and amateur riders from around the world will compete.
But only riders in Quebec City will enjoy the Paris-Brest-Quebec take on the traditional cycling-inspired dessert.