How to make la religieuse: the nun’s pastry
By Cassie Harrex
How to make la religieuse: the nun’s pastry
Turn your choux pastry buns into works of art with these sweet looking pastries, commonly called ‘The Nun’. Made with light-as-air puffs filled with pastry cream and topped with a glaze, the nun’s pastry looks tricky but are surprisingly a cinch with these simple steps.
What is la religieuse?
In French it literally means ‘the nun’, and apparently they got this name from its appearance, which is said to resemble a nun’s habit. You may need to squint a little to see it though.
La religieuse is made from two profiterole balls filled with pastry cream and stacked one on top of the other. Traditional la religieuse is covered with either a chocolate glaze or coffee icing; however, some of the top pastry shops have come up with far more inspiring interpretations: salted caramel, pistachio, rose or even blackcurrant.
How to make choux pastry buns
Choux is a light-as-air pastry that dramatically puffs up in the oven as it cooks. The pastry gets its signature airiness from the dough’s high water content, which turns to steam as it cooks, pushing the pastry into voluminous shapes and leaving it hollow inside. While it is relatively easy to make, here are a few tips to ensure your choux is a success every time:
80ml (1/3 cup) water
40g butter, at room temperature, cubed
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, at room temperature
Vegetable oil, to grease
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Method Related Recipes Notes
Place water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and mixture just comes to the boil.
Add all the flour to the butter mixture at once and use a wooden spoon to beat until well combined. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture forms a ball and begins to come away from the side of the saucepan. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Whisk 1 egg in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl, then add it to the flour mixture, beating well with a wooden spoon. Gradually add a little of the reserved egg and beat until the mixture just falls from the spoon but still holds its shape.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a baking tray with oil to lightly grease. Spoon 25-30 teaspoonsful of the mixture onto tray, about 3cm apart. Alternatively, use a pastry bag fitted with a 1.5cm-diameter plain piping nozzle to pipe the profiteroles onto the baking tray. Brush the tops with a little of the remaining egg. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the profiteroles are puffed and golden.
Remove from oven and turn the oven off. Using a skewer or a small knife, pierce the base (or top) of each profiterole to release the steam. Return the profiteroles to the oven and leave them for 15 minutes to dry out. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Remember to make half your choux buns large and half small. To do this transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Pipe the buns out on baking paper-lined trays. You will need two trays, one each for the large and small buns.
How to make pastry cream
435 mL milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped
3 egg yolks
70 g caster sugar
50 g plain flour, sifted
Place the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, in a small saucepan. Gently heat over a medium heat until the milk comes to a simmer and almost boils. Remove from the heat. Cover and set aside for five minutes.
While the milk infuses, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a heatproof bowl until the mix is thick and pale. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, then return the mixture to the saucepan and place over a medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture has thickened to form a thick custard. Remove from heat and strain into a medium bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for later.
How to make a chocolate glaze
140 g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
70 mL thin (pouring) cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Combine chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate melts. Add the vegetable oil and give the chocolate mix a really good stir to ensure everything is well combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
Assembling la religieuse
Large silver cachous to decorate
Place your piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle in a jug, opening the bag out over the top of the jug. This will allow you to easily fill the bag without making a mess. Fill the bag with the chilled pastry cream.
Push a piping nozzle, or small knife, into each choux bun to make a hole. Fill the buns with pastry cream, ensuring that the cream thoroughly fills each one. You can tell this by the weight of each bun, when they start getting heavy you know they’re full. Set the filled buns aside.
Coat the tops of both the small and large buns in the chocolate glaze by dipping them into the pan and allowing it to dribble off a little. Flip them over and set them on a cooling rack to set a little. While the glaze is still sticky assemble le religieuse by gently pressing a small bun on top of a large bun. Carefully place a silver cachous on top of each bun. Set aside to allow the icing to dry completely.