Religieuse: Death at the Nunnery – Episode 1
This is my attempt at Mary Berry’s Religieuse (choux pastry nuns). It was going perfectly until I panicked with the choux pastry and took it out of the oven too early (silly boy), resulting in the pastry collapsing. This affected the shape of the end products and caused one to be a bit top heavy to the extent that it won’t stand up properly. However, it all worked out and produced this lovely seen from a period drama, where one of the nuns has been killed and the other nuns have just found the body (oh no!)… I promise I am sane, I think…
This recipe makes 8 nuns.
Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)
500ml Milk (I used semi-skimmed)
2tsps Vanilla Extract
8 Eggs (2 whole eggs and 6 yolks)
2 ½ oz Caster Sugar
3 ½ oz Plain Flour
300ml Double Cream (keep chilled)
7oz Dark Chocolate
Measure out the milk in a measuring jug and pour into a large pan. Add the vanilla and place the pan on a medium heat. Bring the milk to the boil and then set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, place the 6 egg yolks (see Strawberry Vacherin for how to separate eggs) and caster sugar. Whisk the two together with an electric whisk until pale and double in volume.
Sieve in the cornflour and 1oz of the plain flour. Briefly whisk to combine properly. Pour in the milk, whisking continuously (it will froth quite a bit so be careful). Transfer the mixture back into the pan and place on a medium heat.
Bring the mixture to the boil, whisking continuously with a hand whisk. You will eventually feel the mixture begin to thicken after 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat and continue to whisk until thick. Transfer the crème patissiere to a plastic container and allow to cool and set.
Pour 150ml of the double cream into a small pan and heat on a low heat until the cream is hot to the touch. Break the chocolate into pieces. Take the cream off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has all melted and a thick ganache results. Transfer the ganache to a plastic container and allow to cool at room temperature (don’t want it to fully set, it just needs to be thick and hold its shape).
Draw 8 circles on a sheet of baking paper with a diameter of 5cm and 8 with a diameter of 2.5cm. Stick the sheet to a baking sheet with butter.
Pre-heat the oven to 220oC (425oF, Gas Mark 7).
Place the butter and water in a medium size pan on a medium heat and bring to the boil.
Take off the heat and sieve in the remaining flour. Stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.
Place the pan back on a low heat and continue to stir for 5 minutes to dry out the mixture. Take off the heat again and add the two eggs. Stir vigorously until everything is combined into a smooth and shiny paste (be patient, it looks a mess at one stage but eventually the egg combines into the mixture properly). Transfer to a piping bag fit with a wide nozzle.
Pipe into the circles on the baking sheet holding the bag vertically above the centre of the circle as you do so to get an even shape. Wet your fingers and gently smooth out the surface of the rounds to get the shape as even as possible.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. The oven needs to be very hot to get the choux pastry to rise properly. Reduce the temperature to 190oC (375oF, Gas Mark 5) and bake for another 10 minutes. Do NOT take the pastries out of the oven before 20 minutes has passed.
Take the choux pastry out and pierce the bottom of each bun with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Place the buns back in the oven for another 5 minutes to dry out. Take the buns out and allow to cool completely.
Transfer the cooled crème patissiere to a piping bag fit with a narrow nozzle. Fill all 16 buns up with crème patissiere using the holes you made with the skewer. Use a palette knife to coat the top of each bun in ganache and use this to glue a small one onto a large one, producing “nuns”. Whisk the remaining cream into whipped cream and transfer to a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle. Pipe a ring of cream around the collar of each nun to finish them off.