Monday, 28 March 2016


Welcome back to I Attempt to Make Some French Cakes for Nebulous Book Promotional Reasons of My Own Devising!

Part 2: religieuses 

(You can read Part 1, Flan, here)


Do you have hens? I hope you have hens because you need a RIDICULOUS number of eggs for this recipe. Nine of them. Nine eggs. Religieuses, sponsored by Lipitor.


There isn't really a context to this. I mention religieuses in the book but for no more significant reason than that they are just brilliant, one of my very favourite French cakes. I mean, if you like an eclair, you'll love a religieuse, one choux bun on top of another larger choux bun, filled with crème pâtissière and stuck together with chantilly. Are you with me? YES OF COURSE YOU ARE. Not you, Jamie Oliver, you can stay where you are, crying into your steamed chard.

The process: 

It took me a lot of dithering to get started on this because there are so many stages it is terrifying. Do you start with the filling or the choux? Who the hell knows. I partly used the eclair recipe from my violently pink cake book and partly various randomly selected internet recipes many of which were so casual they did not give you any indication of cooking time other than "until they are cooked". THANKS, cake dicks.

First: crème pâtissière. Boil up half a litre of whole milk with a scraped vanilla pod. That's another €3, no pressure. Once boiled allow to infuse for ten minutes.

Separate six (SIX) yolks. Mix them with some cornflour and sugar. Beat until they either get pale (the Internet) or they don't (the pink book). They got pale, what you gonna do.

Bring the boiled vanilla milk back to the boil, having removed vanilla pod. Add a third of if (eh?) to the egg mixture, whisk, then add the rest.

Put the whole lot back in your pan on a HOT RING and whisk like fuck until it thickens. When it does - and this is a very alarming moment, panic like fuck, take it off the heat and whisk until your arm burns. If anyone comes into the kitchen at this moment, I suggest you screech "DON'T LOOK AT ME!" like a banshee, which certainly worked for me. When the whole thing becomes smooth and unctuous and beautiful, expect to begin to have sexual feelings about your whisk. I certainly did. You add 50g of butter here so it doesn't get a skin or some such nonsense. No idea. Pink book said so.

Whisk, phwoargh

Now, for some reason, you spread your crème pâtissière - because THIS IS IT, YOU HAVE MADE CREME PAT LIKE A BOSS, savour this moment - on a tray covered with clingfilm, then put more clingfilm on the top, then refrigerate.

Word to the unwary: ensure your crème pât is well balanced in the fridge if you do not want my fate to befall you - half the crème pât escaped off the slightly off-balance tray onto a cucumber and a bunch of spring onions, so I had to wipe it off them and eat. Licking crème pât off a spring onion: not a lifetime high.

Time for choux! Boil up 55g of butter and 125g of water and a ludicrously small quantity of sugar and salt (half a teaspoon each) that you add mainly for superstitious reasons. Add 70g flour and whisk like fuck. God, you love that whisk at this point. You are supposed to "dessécher la pâte" for 30 seconds. You have no idea what this looks like. Whatever. You and your whisk are invincible.

Remove from heat. Add three "small eggs" (thankfully your dickhead new hen lays small eggs), one by one, whisking like thunder. You have made choux dough. It is time for some undignified and regrettable business with a piping bag.


CHILD: Sigh.

I imagine some people might clear the table first. 

Make large choux (5cm?) for the bottom ball and small choux (3cm) for the top choux.

Word to the unwary: if you draw pencil circles on your baking parchment, you will end up with pencil circles on your choux. This may or may not bother you.

Place your choux in the oven! 180°C! Non fan assisted! Wait for half an hour-ish! YOU HAVE MADE CHOUX.

(No one is impressed but you. "Can we have lunch now?" they say. "Why does the kitchen look like that" they say)

This is where it really gets ugly, especially if your bastard family say they want chocolate religieuses when you have planned coffee ones. Be brave. Accept that basically everything in your kitchen will end up dirty and covered in fondant and you'll be fine.

The process. Just before I started shouting "I KNOW IT'S NOT THIRTY FIVE FUCKING DEGREES"

Make some holes in your choux with one of those things you put in the end of piping bags. A small one. I put holes in the bottom of the small choux because they wouldn't show, and in the side of the large ones because, I dunno. I should have put them in the bottom too. Whatever.

Liberate your crème pât from its clingfilm prison and whisk it up a bit, just to be fancy. For coffee crème pat, add a bit of Nescafé mixed into a small espresso. Not to much or it'll get too runny. For vanilla, just put in a piping bag and go for it. Ignore anyone who asks for chocolate. PIPE.

Chocolate topping: I made ganache (double cream plus dark Côte d'Or). It was delicious and too much of it ended up in my mouth.

Coffee topping: Get out your giant tub of fondant bought from a baking pervert website and attempt to heat it to "35°C". This is a fool's errand. Just get it a bit warm, eh.

Dip the balls in the topping! Assemble! The toppings will go everywhere, mainly in your mouth. It's fine. Go with it.

Whip up a bit of cream to a fairly stiff consistency. Put it in YET ANOTHER piping bag with one of those fancy pointy nozzles. Pipe a bit at the join of the two balls. Annoy your family by going "LOOK LOOK LOOK IT LOOKS LIKE A RELIGIEUSE LOOK!"

Continue until you have a significant number of religieuses.

The result:

Look at it! Look! 

"Can we eat them now" say your awful, unsupportive family. 

Snarl "I AM TAKING PICTURES" and fight them off with your trusty whisk. 

The verdict: 

I am so fucking proud. These are actual religieuses. Sure, the coffee icing is very dull and the chocolate looks like it was applied by a toddler, but they are recognisably what I set out to make. I have eaten so much leaked crème pâtissière off spring onions and spilled ganache off everything, I cannot actually bear to eat one yet, but all the components taste good and the family are grudgingly impressed. This is a serious success. I am never doing it again, but I consider this a triumph. I have fondant in my wig and ganache on my jumper. Everyone in this house hates me. I do not care. 

Have a large alcoholic drink, then write a blogpost liberally sprinkled with GRATUITOUS CAPITAL LETTERS to celebrate. 

Please buy my book for many more cakes and other things, including a sugarwork heron (not made by me), fascist shoes and poo in a bag. Thxbai. 


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I tremendously appreciate the cinema verite approach to performative cooking. The part about things leaking in the refrigerator, particularly, was very true to life. (My life, at least.) Now very interested in the book.

Jo said...

Oh this made me laugh so much, but the end result is fabulous! Please say that you are writing a cookbook next.

B said...

YOU ARE A GENIUS AND I ADORE YOU NOW SEND ME SOME GODDAMN RELIGIEUSES. (also, this made me laugh and laugh and laugh and i CANNOT wait to read your book.)

Anonymous said...

I am seriously impressed.

Anonymous said...

2 (count em: 2) thumbs up. Excellent work. Haven't laughed so much in ages.

I love baking but am hamstrung by a) having 1yo twins and therefore no time, and b) said twins having food allergies which means all cakes must be vegan.

A cake that calls for chia seeds (responsible for that vibrant growth of "hair" for novelty plant pots in my youth) is no sort of cake at all. And yet somehow I find myself nonchalantly swapping chia seeds for linseeds and translating recipes from American English to, well, English and marvelling that the so-called cake rose and tasted nice. If by nice you accept I mean overpoweringly of cinnamon. And I am proud of my linseed/ cinnamon offerings. Still, they're no religieuses.

Now, apart from a snowman-like resemblance to a person, why would 2 choux buns held together by chantilly flourishes be called a nun?

Waffle said...

B - Are you drunk? I HOPE SO.

Anon - I realise I have no idea. Maybe the dark plus white being nun's habit-y? You are very heroic with the vegan baking.

Kate Hyde said...

You are amazing. The nuns are amazing. It's all amazing. I can't believe you must go through these cakey hoops in order for people to buy your book, which is already irresistible enough, but I'm glad for our sake that you are.

blackbird said...

I am unbelievably impressed.
Ordering the book. (I NEVER buy books)

Unknown said...

That was pretty much my experience making eclairs. My arm nearly fell off. I have not been moved to make them at home since.

Betty M said...

Wow! Pretty impressive.

Alan said...

How unlike the home life of our own dear Mary Berry.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle, you brightened a pretty morose evening for me yesterday. I laughed out loud several times walking down the street. Congratulations on your amazing feat, they look absolutely delicious. Not sure I'll try to make them as years of typing have weakened my arms and I might not be up to all that vigorous whisking but they look heavenly. You should be exceedingly proud of yourself! said...

I am now inspired to have a go at these. Loved your blow by blow account of the process, including expletives and actually laughed out loud!

anapestic said...

Those are gorgeous. I think you are ready to start your own cooking school/religious order: the Sisters of Perpetual Gluttony.

Crazy Mom! said...


Jane said...

Gosh. Long time lurker here; have loved your writing for years but never commented before. The spirit has finally moved me because I adore religieuses (we called them "nun buns" in my youth), and I am hugely impressed that you have made them. Wow. And yes, I have bought your book; two copies in fact, one for me and one for a friend who used to live in Paris. So hopefully that will keep you in vanilla pods for a few days at least.

Anonymous said...

Best recipe I've ever read. Will have to buy your book...

Patience_Crabstick said...

I hadn't heard of this pastry and I was going to google religieuses to see what they look like, but now I don't have to. Yours look lovely!

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