I bought myself a new camera last week, I’ve been wanting a DSLR for a long time and promised myself that I would buy one as a reward for completing my PhD. I rewarded myself after my undergraduate dissertation with a pair of knee length Dr Martens boots, not worn as often as they used to be but I still love them. After I finished my masters dissertation I bought myself a Le Creuset starter set in cassis as purple is my favourite colour, the set contains 20cm casserole, 2 ramekins, 20cm and 26cm oven dishes, and has been a great investment.
Once I’d decided that I was going to buy a new camera I fully expected to have to wait until next year to be able to afford one as they cost more than what I’d spent on my previous two rewards combined. However I heard that fellow food blogger Ciara from My Fussy Eater was selling hers for a very sensible price and I jumped at the chance to give the camera a new foodie home. I’m still getting to grips with the camera and after spending an afternoon playing around with all the different settings using a vase of flowers as my subject, these photos are the first foodie ones I’ve taken. I’m very impressed with them and I’m enjoying learning how to take better photos. Everything over the last 6 months was shot on my Samsung Galaxy K Zoom phone and before that I was just using a fairly ordinary Kodak digital camera, so it’s been quite a big step up. Over that time I’ve also gradually started to understand more about lighting and styling, it’s a been a fun process teaching myself these things.
Now the interesting bit, the chocolate religieuses. These are one of my all time favourite treats from the bakery whenever I’m in France. I quite often choose the coffee flavour when I’m over there but last time I went over with my boyfriend I introduced him to the chocolate version (he doesn’t like coffee) and he fell in love with them. So of course I had to have a go at recreating them myself, it’s taken ages for me to get round to doing this but definitely worth the wait.
Religieuses take their name from the fact that these indulgent choux pastries look a little like a nun dressed in her habit. They are traditionally filled with a chocolate or coffee flavoured custard, topped with a corresponding chocolate or coffee fondant icing and decorated with a collar of buttercream. I’ve decided to make mine slightly differently and use an easier method for creating the filling, it’s not authentic but is just as rich and delicious.
In my copy of Larousse Gastronomique Desserts, Cakes and Pastries the entry for religieuses tells you to make choux pastry and then fill it with a chiboust cream (a custard stabilised with flour and gelatine) and decorate with a crème au beurre (a buttercream enriched with egg yolks). This all seemed like far too much faff to me, plus I didn’t really want to crack all of those eggs, there would have been 14 eggs altogether if I’d followed that recipe. So instead I decided to go for a much simpler whipped ganache filling, plain chocolate topping and a plain buttercream for the decoration. Much easier. One day I might attempt the proper version.
- 125ml milk
- 125ml water
- 65g unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 125g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 400ml extra thick double cream
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g icing sugar
- splash of milk
- 50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- Preheat the oven to 220°C and line 2 baking trays with silicone baking mats or lightly greased baking parchment.
- Heat the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter in a medium sized saucepan over a gentle heat until the butter is melted and then bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and then add the flour and mix quickly. Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously for up to a minute until the pastry begins to thicken and come away from the sides of the pan and form into a ball shape. Do not beat the pastry at this stage as it may end up oily.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly then beat in 2 eggs together until smooth then add the 3rd and 4th eggs, beating between each addition. After adding the final egg, beat the pastry hard until you end up with a smooth glossy pastry then transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
- Pipe 10-12 small balls onto a baking tray and 10-12 large balls which are twice the size of the small balls. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven then reduce the temperature to 180°C and cook for a further 10 minutes for the small buns and up to 25 minutes for the larger buns. When the buns are ready, turn them out onto a wire rack to cool and poke a small hole in the bottom of each bun with a knife, this helps them to stay crisp as they cool.
- For the ganache filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and heat half the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract in a small saucepan until just below boiling point. Pour it over the chocolate and stir well until the chocolate is all melted and the ganache is smooth. Add the rest of the cream and mix well to combine then cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
- When the buns are cold, melt the chocolate for the topping in a bain marie and dip the small buns into the chocolate to half coat and set aside until the chocolate has set.
- Make the buttercream for the piped decoration by beating the butter until light and fluffy, sieve in the icing sugar and add a small splash of milk then beat to combine into a smooth icing. Transfer into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.
- Once the chocolate topping has set it's time to assemble the religieuses. Take the ganache out of the fridge and beat with a hand mixer for a minute to soften it then transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle.
- Place the nozzle of the piping bag containing the ganache into the small hole cut into the base of a bun and squeeze the bag to fill the bun with ganache, repeat with all of the buns until all the ganache is used up. Squeeze a small blob of buttercream onto the top of each large bun and position a small bun on top of each large bun. Pipe lines of buttercream between the buns all the way around to create a collar.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve. The religieuses also freeze well fully assembled, place 2 at a time carefully into freezer bags for freezing and then defrost at room temperature or in the fridge before serving.
This is my entry into The Pastry Challenge for April which Lisa is hosting. The theme is chocolate so do join in if you’ve baked anything with chocolate and pastry this month. I’m also linking up with Dom’s Simply Eggcellent and Karen and Jane’s Tea Time Treats which also have chocolate themes. Finally I’m sending these to Recipe of the Week and Cook Blog Share.