Religieuses (Nuns)

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My friends and I have been watching the Great British Baking Show and decided to try one of the technical challenges – religieuses (nuns), i.e. glorified cream puffs.  A French friend of mind says that she sees them often in pastry shops in France.  They were very tasty, although they were definitely on the fiddly side.  Next time I’ll just make the puffs all the same size and skip both the stacking and the whipped cream collar, which you can’t really taste anyway.

Baking Notes:

  • You’ll end up with a lot of leftover whipped cream.
  • Below I’ve halved the amount of chocolate ganache icing, because we also had a lot left.
  • I’ve translated the ingredient names from British to American English (who’d have thought they’d be so different?), and included American measurements as well.  However, it’s easiest just to use weights and mL to measure them out.

 

Religieuses (Nuns)
Adapted from Mary Berry, via the Great British Baking Show

Yield: 8 religieuses

For choux pastry:

  • 60g/2¼oz (about 2 tablespoons) butter, cut into cubes
  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) of water
  • 75g/2½oz (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For pastry cream:

  • 500ml/18fl oz (a little over 2 cups) milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 75g/2½oz (1/3 cup) caster/superfine sugar OR granulated sugar
  • 20g/¾oz (2 tablespoons+2 teaspoons) corn starch
  • 25g/1oz (1/5 cup) all-purpose flour

For chocolate ganache icing:

  • 75ml/2.5fl oz (1/3 cup) heavy cream
  • 100g/3.5oz semisweet baking chocolate (30-40% cocoa solids if you can find it, but 50-60% is also fine), broken into small pieces

For whipped cream:

  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) heavy cream

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425ºF.  On a sheet of parchment paper, draw eight circles 2 inches in diameter and another eight circles 1 inch in diameter, spacing the circles about 1-2 inches apart.  Flip the parchment paper over and line a baking sheet with it.

  2. To make the pastry cream, pour milk and vanilla extract into a heavy-bottom pan and bring gradually to a boil.

  3. Remove pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds.

  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color, then whisk in corn starch and flour.

  5. Pour vanilla-infused milk onto egg mixture, whisking continuously, then pour back into the pan.

  6. Bring back to a boil, whisking continuously on medium heat, and cook for 1 minute.

  7. Pour pastry cream into a shallow bowl.  Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely.  Transfer to the fridge to chill.

  8. To prepare the choux pastry, put butter and water in a heavy-bottom saucepan and heat on medium heat until butter melts.

  9. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

  10. Quickly pour in flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball.

  11. Return saucepan to the stove and cook on low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

  12. Remove saucepan from heat and leave to cool slightly.

  13. Gradually add the eggs, stirring well with a wooden spoon between each addition to form a smooth, shiny paste.

  14. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip.

  15. Pipe round discs onto the parchment paper in the marked circles.

  16. Wet your finger and gently smooth the top of each disc.

  17. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

  18. Remove the choux buns from the oven and pierce each bun on top with a skewer to allow the steam to escape.  Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to dry out.

  19. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

  20. To make the chocolate ganache, bring cream to a boil in a small pan.

  21. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir until melted and shiny.

  22. Transfer to a small bowl (you want the chocolate ganache to be deep enough to dip the buns in) and leave to cool.  Transfer the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.

  23. To assemble the religieuse, spoon the cold pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip.

  24. Using a chopstick or skewer, poke a 1/4-inch hole in the bottom of each choux bun.

  25. Poke the tip into each bun.  Using a finger to cover the little hole you made in the top earlier, squeeze pastry cream into each bun until the pastry cream just starts to come back out of the hole in the bottom.  You can use your finger to wipe away any excess pastry cream.

  26. Dip the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat half-way up the sides.

  27. On a large platter, arrange the large buns at least a few inches apart (you want to have enough space to pipe the whipped cream collars around the religieuses later).

  28. Sit a small bun on top of each large bun.

  29. For the collars, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl.  (If the whipped cream is too stiff, the piped stars will look somewhat craggy.)

  30. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a small star tip.

  31. Pipe a circle of whipped cream stars around the join where the small bun sits on top of the large bun to form a collar.

  32. Serve immediately, or at least on the same day.
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