Corbeil-Essonnes to Paris Champs-Élysées | Distance 144km/89.5mi
Bicycling Magazine describes today's challenges as "Dropped champagne flutes, wigs tangling spokes, general hijinks." At least until they arrive at the city perimeter. The cyclists here today have accomplished the unthinkable.
Many of us, when we think of Paris, think of food, particularly pastry. Pastry history is long and filled with passionate debate on ownership. Records state that Antonin Careme elevated the art form. Larousse Gastronomique, states that "Choux pastry is said to have been invented in 1540 by Popelini, Catherine de' Medici's chef, but the pastrycook's art only truly began to develop in the 17th century and greatest innovator at the beginning of the 19th century was indubitably [Antonin] Careme...There were about a hundred pastrycooks in Paris at the end of the 18th century. In 1986 the count for the whole of France was over 40,000 baker-pastrycooks and 12,5000 pastrycooks."
So what does this have to do with bicycling. Before the TdF, there was the Paris-Brest-Paris race. Every four years, since 1891, riders have 90 hours to complete the unmarked course. Once a professional race the ride has evolved into an amateur one. But don't let that fool you. The next race is 2007.
In the early days of the race a pastry chef along the route was looking to increase his sales during this time put his mind to reinventing his eclairs. What resulted is now known as the Paris Brest. It's a choux pastry, shaped as a bicycle wheel it's cut in half and filled with with praline crème pâtissière and topped with almonds. While all of this sounds impressively complicated, for the most part you can stage everything ahead of time. Years ago, Joyce Goldstein's Square One served a Paris-Brest pastry filled with bananas and praline custard served up with chocolate sauce.
Recipe for Paris-Brest via Meilleur du Chef (with photos)